The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

First glimpse of election results

It had been predicted, but it's still hard to believe that after only one round of parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood seems to have secured some 34 seats in the next People's Assembly. And that's with still nearly two-thirds of parliament seats to go, even though the constituencies in the next two rounds are likely to have fewer Brotherhood strongholds.

For the last few weeks in the Egyptian press, everyone has been writing about what this means. Did the Brotherhood do a deal with the government? Is it really that strong? Is it serious about its commitment to democratic processes? Does it really have a clear agenda beyond "Islam is the solution"?

Coverage of the Brotherhood:
Le Monde
There are also wider questions being asked. The NDP is safe with at least 140 seats secured by its official candidates and "independents who are likely to rejoin the NDP. But with the defeat of some prominent candidates, such as Amin Mubarak (the president's cousin) in Menoufiya and Hossam Badrawy, one of the more outspoken NDP "reformists," this election will turn out into a partial failure of the ruling party's ability to claim that it has carried out serious reform and turned into a serious party. It still seems to be, for all intents and purposes, a party of opportunists who join it for access to the state's resources.

Even more worrying is the opposition front, which only appears to have secured five seats. The defeats of Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour and Ayman Nour are also indicators that the most "centrist" opposition figures are being sidelined. The secular opposition is for now the biggest loser of these elections, apparently having neither the popular appeal to convince voters nor the deep pockets to buy their votes. (See the excellent multi-page coverage in this week's Al Ahram Hebdo for coverage of this in French, as well as all of the independent and opposition Arabic press of the last few days, most notably Al Masri Al Youm's headline today "Who pays more?!") In some neighborhoods the price of a vote is going as high as LE1000, and one reporter said that she saw a voter waiting in front of the ballot box without doing anything. When she approached him to ask why he wasn't voting, he said he was waiting until the last minute when his vote could be sold for the highest price. All of this vote-buying is taking place in front of electoral officials and police, so the problem this time around seems to be that the police is not interfering enough, not that it is interfering too much.

Finally, my favorite election anecdote so far: apparently, last night candidate Talaat Sadat (nephew of the late president), whose symbol is a lion, went campaigning around his Tala constituency with a pair of real, live lions, scaring the locals and kicking up quite a fuss. Needless to say, he won.