The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts in elections2011
The war around us

Here's the trailer for The war around us, on our friends Ayman Mohieldin and Sherine Tadros' coverage of the 2009 Gaza war. They went on to do great things covering the 2011 uprising in Egypt, also for al-Jazeera English, which they have both since left.

Final results for Egypt's parliamentary elections

From the Beltone newsletter:

Freedom and Justice Party wins 47.2% of lower house parliamentary seats, followed by Al Nour party winning 24.7% of seats

Freedom and Justice Party wins 47.2% of lower house parliamentary seats, followed by Al Nour party winning 24.7% of seats, Al Ahram reported citing the Head of Egypt’s Higher Elections Council, who announced yesterday the final results for the lower house parliamentary elections. The first session will convene tomorrow led by Dr. Mahmoud El Sakka as the most senior MP, whereby the speaker of parliament and two deputies will be chosen tomorrow. A total of 15 political parties are represented in this parliament of 498 elected seats, while 21 parties were eliminated from party list seats because they did not attain the 0.5% of total votes on the national level. Ten Members of Parliament (MPs) were directly appointed by Head of SCAF Tantawi, who will not be attending the opening session. On the other hand PM Ganzouri will attend. Below are the number of seats won by each of the 15 political parties.


1.  Freedom and Justice Party won 127 party list seats and 108 individual seats, representing 47.2% of total parliamentary seats

2.     Al Nour Party won 96 party list seats and 27 individual seats, representing 24.7% of total parliamentary seats

3.     Wafd won 36 party list seats  and two individual seats, representing 7.6% of total parliamentary seats

4.     Egyptian Bloc won 33 party list seats and one individual seat, representing 6.8% of total parliamentary seats

5.     Al Wasat Al Gadeed won 10 party list seats, representing 2% of total parliamentary seats

6.     Reform and Development won 8 party list seats and one individual seat, representing 1.8% of total parliamentary seats

7.     Revolution Continues won 7 party list seat, representing 1.4% of total parliamentary seats

8.     Masr Al Qawmy won 4 party list seat and one individual, representing 1% of total parliamentary seats

9.     Al Hurreya won 4 party list seats, representing 0.8% of total parliamentary seats

10.   Egyptian Citizen won 3 party list seat and one individual seat, representing 0.8% of total parliamentary seats

11.   Al Itihad won two party list seats, representing 0.4% of total parliamentary seats

12.   Arab Egyptian Union won one party list seat, representing 0.2% of total parliamentary seats

13.   Democratic Peace won one party list seat, representing 0.2% of total parliamentary seats

14.   Conservative Party won one individual seat, representing 0.2% of total parliamentary seats

15.   Al Adl won one individual seat, representing 0.2% of total parliamentary seats

By my tally that doesn't quite add up to the right number, but you get the jist. I put these up because I don't see the results elsewhere in English.

ElBaradei not to run for president

Mohamed ElBaradei has just declared that he will not run for the presidency. From Reuters:

CAIRO Jan 14 (Reuters) - Mohamed ElBaradei pulled out of the race for the Egyptian presidency on Saturday, saying "the previous regime" was still running the country which has been without a head of state since Hosni Mubarak was deposed last year.

"My conscience does not permit me to run for the presidency or any other official position unless it is within a democratic framework," the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said in a statement.

There have been several reasons cited, besides the whole "democratic framework" business. Aside from the manner in which SCAF has run things, ElBaradei is also said to oppose SCAF's desire to rapidly draft a new constitution before the presidential elections are held — a step criticized for being against the agreed transition order. The question now is whether the opinions of anyone but SCAF and the Muslim Brothers matter.

ElBaradei has been a lackluster political presence for the last six months, with many of his erstwhile supporters believing his political career was over, largely because of his own lack of energy. Most believed he stood little chance in an election.

Nonetheless, ElBaradei's announcement may have an impact on mainstream views of the Egyptian revolution thus far. His charge that the Mubarak regime is still in place should fan the flames of those who want a second revolution on January 25, and counters the Muslim Brothers' narrative that one must go on with the transition through parliament until a handover of power to a new president. It also encourages the narrative of a dastardly MB-military alliance against a genuine democratic transformation of the country (further evidence of that would be MB assurances of immunity to the SCAF generals — not necessarily a bad compromise, but in this context quite damaging to the MB).

The big question may be what's next: if he's not running for the presidency, is ElBaradei willing to take the lead in the movement against the current transition, including further protests against the SCAF? That's not clear just yet, and somehow I doubt that a man who has shown aversion to street protests will take that route.

Update: Here is ElBaradei's statement, published by al-Tahrir newspaper today [Ar]. And here's an English translation.

Update 2: Here's ElBaradei's video statement.

Carter, SCAF and the Egyptian elections

I attended the press conference organized by the Carter Center this morning, featuring Jimmy Carter. The full press release is below, but the basic takeaway word to describer the Center's estimate of the conduct of the first post-Mubarak elections is "acceptable".

President Carter used the word several times, and if you drill down in the details of their report you can tell they have major reservations about the conduct of the elections, particularly the vote-counting (some of this has already been taken on board by the Egyptian authorities, for instance the idea of counting votes inside of polling stations rather than in "chaotic" (the Carter Center's word) polling stations. My impression, talking on background with several people there, is that there were some serious problems with the elections, most of which were due to disorganization rather than malice, and that in any case since most of the Egyptian political class is accepting the results, there is no reason to make a bigger deal of it. Perhaps the biggest note of disappointment comes with the very few seats won by women and the fact that there was minimal effort to secure a better chance for female candidates.

The other amusing thing is that much of the press conference was not about the elections, but rather the post-elections battle between parliament (i.e. the Muslim Brothers, mostly) and the military, and to a lesser extent Camp David. Carter stressed that all of the party leaders he spoke to were in favor of maintaining the treaty, and again chose to stress that the Camp David agreement had two parts: one on Egyptian-Israeli peace, which has been implemented, and another that he described as "a guarantee of Palestinian rights," which he had already said recently both Israel and Egypt had fallen short on (I posted on that yesterday). 

On the relationship between the military and civilians, Carter said that he was given the impression (noted in an interview with the NYT two days ago), in his meeting with SCAF, that they intended to retain some power after the transfer of power to a new president. Here's David Kirkpatrick's Times story from Wednesday:


CAIRO — Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that after meeting with Egypt’s military rulers he doubted they would fully submit to the authority of the civilian democracy they had promised to install.

“ ‘Full civilian control’ is a little excessive, I think,” Mr. Carter said, after describing a meeting he had Tuesday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF. “I don’t think the SCAF is going to turn over full responsibility to the civilian government. There are going to be some privileges of the military that would probably be protected.”

Mr. Carter’s assessments of Egypt’s political transition are significant in part because his role in the Camp David accords made him a revered figure here, with singular access at all levels of the Egyptian government and society. He was here Wednesday with a team from his human rights organization, the Carter Center, to help monitor the end of the last day of the final round of the first parliamentary elections since the ouster last February of President Hosni Mubarak.


However, SCAF issued a statement denying that it intends to retain some power after the transfer of power to civilians, as it has in the past. Carter gracefully accepted their correction, did not appear convinced, and seemed eager to discuss this "misunderstanding."

More coverage of this here: WaPo | AFP | Ahram | Jazeera | Reuters

The full press release from the Carter Center is after the jump, and contains detailed recommendations.

Jan. 13, 2012
CONTACT: In Cairo, Deborah Hakes +20 1060379961 or

The Carter Center’s Witnessing Mission for Egypt’s People’s Assembly Elections Executive Summary of Findings

Egypt’s People’s Assembly elections enjoyed broad participation from voters and are a progressive step toward a democratic transition. While there were shortcomings in the legal framework, campaign violations, and weaknesses in the administration of the elections, the results appear to be a broadly accurate expression of the will of the voters.  However, the ultimate success of Egypt’s transition will depend on the earliest possible handover of power to a civilian government that is accountable to the Egyptian people.  The inclusive drafting of a new constitution that protects fundamental rights and freedoms and ensures full civilian authority over the military will establish the foundations of a democratic Egypt.

Since the departure of President Mubarak in February 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has assumed interim executive and legislative authority in Egypt.  In the months following, the relationship between the SCAF and many of Egypt’s citizens has deteriorated, at times escalating to violence.  The excessive use of force by the security apparatus, the continuation of the Emergency Law, the use of military tribunals for trying civilian suspects, and the crackdown on civil society organizations has created an atmosphere of distrust.  Further, the SCAF’s lack of transparent behavior has created sense of uncertainty about their commitment to full civilian leadership. It is in this context that the People’s Assembly elections have taken place. 


Principal Findings of the Carter Center’s Witnessing Mission:

The Carter Center mission to witness Egypt’s parliamentary elections is accredited by the Supreme Judicial Commission for Elections (SJCE). The Carter Center deployed 40 witnesses from 24 countries to all of Egypt’s 27 governorates.  Across the three phases of voting,these witnesses assessed and observed the administrative preparations, campaigning, voting and counting, and complaints processes. Carter Center witnesses met with government officials, political parties and candidates, and religious leaders, as well as representatives of civil society, academia, and media. Carter Center witnesses continue to assess the conclusion of counting and vote tabulation and will remain in Egypt to observe the post-election environment and the upcoming Shura Council (Upper House) elections. 

This is an executive summary of the Carter Center’s principal findings on all three phases of the People’s Assembly Elections. A more detailed report is forthcoming and will be available on the Center’s website, A more detailed final report of the Center’s assessment and recommendations will be published at the conclusion of the mission. 

The Center assesses the elections in Egypt based on the legal framework for elections, Egypt’s obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements, and in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation. 

The principal findings and recommendations of the mission to date include the following:


  • Parties and candidates representing a spectrum of views generally participated in the People’s Assembly elections without interference, despite continuation of the Emergency Law and episodic violence in and around Tahrir Square.
  • Voters were generally able to cast their ballots free of interference and intimidation.  Within the polling station, observers found the atmosphere to be generally peaceful, but at times overcrowded.   Although the secrecy of the ballot was at times compromised, this was usually due to election officials failing to instruct voters correctly on the voting process. 
  • Illegal campaigning on election day occurred throughout the process.  Though witnesses noted a decrease by the third phase, uneven enforcement of the law was a concern for many stakeholders with whom the Center’s witnesses met. 
  • Carter Center witnesses consistently found the counting process to be chaotic.  Judges used different approaches to counting and invalidating ballots, due to an absence of clear procedures or training.  In addition, the publication of results by the SJCE was inconsistent across the three phases.  Despite this, Carter Center witnesses found the counting process to be acceptable.
  • The legal framework for the People’s Assembly elections has served as a reasonable, but far from ideal, foundation for the electoral process.  The election administration lacks the full legal authority necessary to be independent.  In addition, inconsistencies in the legal framework were exacerbated by piecemeal and last minute amendments. 
  • Among the Center’s most significant concerns are those regarding the election complaints process.  Many Egyptian citizens did not appear to know how to access complaints mechanisms, particularly in Phase 1.  In several instances, the timeline of complaints and the remedy granted by the courts (specifically, the rerun of some elections) have extended the election calendar and caused legal uncertainty. Few complaints have been investigated or resolved.
  • The lack of official instruction to electoral stakeholders and the voting public has been a major weakness of the process. In addition, the Center noted that there was poor coordination between the SCJE and security forces, as well as between the SCJE and their subsidiary governorate committees.   
  • The Carter Center has deep reservations about the gross under-representation of women. Women were failed by the lack of a quota for representation, and by the political parties who consistently chose to place women in uncompetitive positions in their lists.
  • Carter Center witnesses observed that, in general, police and army personnel acted competently throughout the election. This observation, however, stands in sharp contrast to the behavior of the security forces toward the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, where the excessive use of force undermined public confidence. 



The Carter Center’s mission respectfully offers the following key recommendations for future elections:


  • Clarify the process for electoral complaints and impose a reasonable deadline for the resolution of disputes: Egypt has all the tools necessary to establish a credible and expeditious election complaints process.  The Carter Center recommends that steps be taken to clarify the process for accessible and timely resolution of electoral disputes. 
  • Complete the procedural framework for elections and train election officials:  Election day and counting processes were inconsistent because of the lack of a clear and complete procedural framework and inadequate training for election officials. This should be rectified by the timely publication of full procedures and training of election officials. 
  • Conduct civic and voter education:  An electorate that is informed about its rights and the steps necessary to exercise them is vital to the democratic health of a nation.  The deficiency of voter information campaigns was notable.  The Carter Center therefore recommends that the SJCE be given a clear mandate for voter education that is established in the law, and that they fulfill that responsibility.   
  • Increase transparency and accountability measures:  Election authorities must be proactive in building trust with their electoral stakeholders and the public.  This responsibility is amplified in the context of political transitions.  A commitment to transparency and accountability at all levels of the administration is essential. Specific measures that should be considered include amending the law regarding the secrecy of the SJCE’s deliberations and, publicly posting count results outside polling stations during the Shura Council elections. 
  • Enforce campaign finance regulations:  Campaign finance regulations do not include any reporting requirements for parties or candidates, or explicit enforcement mechanisms against violators. The Carter Center recommends that parties and candidates be required to fully and accurately disclose campaign expenditures and donations to a regulatory body with the capacity and authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of campaign finance violations.


Completing the Democratic Transition 

The People’s Assembly elections are one step in Egypt’s democratic transition.  Maintaining the momentum of the transition to full democratic rule necessitates further key steps, including the following:


  • Lift the Emergency Law and end use of military trials for civilian suspects:  Emergency laws are special measures that must be continuously justified.  They should only be used in situations that threaten the security of the nation.  When introduced, they should be limited in duration and geographic scope.  The Emergency Law and the use of military trials for civilian suspects are not appropriate in the current climate in Egypt and should be ended.
  • Ensure the parliament has exclusive authority to select the constitutional committee: The newly elected membership of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council will bear responsibility for selecting the 100 members of the constitutional committee.  The exclusive authority of the parliament, as elected representatives of the people, should be respected. 
  • Conduct an inclusive constitutional drafting process that takes into account the views of the full political spectrum of Egyptian society: It is important that the constitutional committee selected by the parliament be representative of Egyptian society.  In particular, there should be a minimum of 30 percent women included in the committee, and quotas for other vulnerable groups considered. 
  • Protect democratic principles, fundamental rights and freedoms in the constitution:  Constitutions, once adopted, are difficult to change.  It is important that Egypt’s new constitution protects the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians; that it provides for the clear separation of powers; and that national ownership of the constitution is secured through a credible and genuine referendum.  


In reference to post-transitional elections, The Carter Center stresses the following recommendations:


  • Establish an independent election commission:  The Carter Center recommends that for post-transition elections, a permanent, fully independent, and professional election management body be established.  A clear, consistent, and restructured legal framework is necessary to support such a body. Both of these goals should be achieved through a consultative process.
  • Redesign the women’s quota:  In accordance with international obligations, it is essential to ensure that women are able to participate in public affairs and contribute to public debate.  The Center recommends that a minimum 30 percent quota be introduced to ensure the effective representation of women in both houses of parliament.
  • Remove farmer/worker quota:  The use of occupational categories as the basis for candidate eligibility arbitrarily undermines the right to be elected.  The Carter Center recommends that this provision of the constitution be reconsidered.



 "Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope." A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

Egypt's elections: 2nd round results, 3rd round starts

The beginning of the third and last (at last!) round of Egypt's elections started today, in the context of the post-election debate — notably what will govern parliament-SCAF relations in the coming period — already more important than the poll. A fundamental mistake of many analysts in looking at the Egyptian results is to focus on their results (i.e. over 70% Islamist control of parliament) rather than the elections themselves. In doing so they have glossed over the many flaws with these elections, from their poor planning to their many irregularies, fraud and the role the military and the judiciary has played at times in favor of some parties. Such an analytical error is most evident in the kind of op-ed written by Jon Alterman who claims that the elections were Egypt's real revolution (never mind his call for a "compromise" on Egyptian democracy, ably critiqued here and here). There are hundreds of lawsuits and claims in these shoddily run elections, the decent thing would be to at least wait for their outcome. To me, the recent elections are much better than last year's, but in some respects comparable to the 2005 ones or even elections in the 1980s.

Anyway, the chances are that the elections will be swallowed because the international community wants to see stability in Egypt, because the SCAF (or at least parts of it) wants them to stand and use their shoddiness as a negotiating card, and because the Muslim Brothers prefer to accept a bad election that brought them to power (hence they complain about irregularities, but sotto voce).

The first two rounds left us with the MB's Freedom and Justice Party with over 48% of seats, and they may very well make over 50% by the end of the third round. Which might be cleaner for all concerned, allowing the MB to be a narrow majority in parliament rather than the plurality. In many respects, the debate has already moved on to other issues, such as:

  • What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over parliament's powers?
  • What deal will be hammered out between the FJP and the SCAF over the constituent assembly?
  • Will the FJP enter into any alliances?

The first two questions are the main focus at the moment, because the need for the third is contingent on them. It's hard to prejudge the results ahead of the coming negotiations, but it's both clear that the MB is ready to negotiate (for instance it is ready to promise the SCAF immunity from prosecution for the violence it ordered during the transition) but that it is not ready to give away everything to the generals. Unfortunately, the twin urgency of striking this deal and getting a constitution approved before the presidential elections is likely to produce a pretty bad document. In other words, yet again the need for real transitional justice and the building of a better foundation for Egyptian politics is being sacrified to the political considerations of the moment.

I will leave you will everything you might want to know about the elections' results so far in this handy PDF prepared by Jacopo Carbonari. Enjoy.

Provisional Results Round 1 & 2

Electoral dirty tricks

Egypt's elections: Dirty tricks | The Economist:

FIRST came unsigned leaflets claiming that the candidate for the Egyptian Bloc, a secularist group, was a communist atheist. Then pamphlets accusing him of being a capitalist crony of the disgraced former regime appeared. Other rumours swirled around the parliamentary district in rural Upper Egypt where he was standing. Some said the Egyptian Bloc was backed by Freemasons and Jews. Others fingered the Coptic Church. On the morning of the vote, pick-up trucks mounted with megaphones fanned out to deliver a coup de grace. Congratulations to the Egyptian Bloc, they blared. Its candidate has been appointed a cabinet minister in Cairo and has withdrawn from the race.

Politics is a rough game everywhere. As it happens the Egyptian Bloc won that seat anyway. But one might have expected a gentler touch from the Islamist parties contesting Egypt's first free parliamentary elections in decades, which enter the second of three regional rounds of voting this week. The Islamists claim the high moral ground, saying they want a return to the principles and values of the pure faith. Yet Egypt's two main Islamist political forces, the Muslim Brotherhood and the puritan Salafists, which together look set to capture as many as two thirds of parliamentary seats, are playing electoral hardball not only against their secular opponents, but against each other too.

What strikes me is that not more dirty tricks have been used against Islamists. The former regime use to be pretty good at it, and they are vulnerable to charges of working for foreign interests (Saudi, Iran...) as well as (perversely) accusations of religious heresy: Salafis as against traditional Islam (the Sufi line) or crypto-al-Qaeda, Muslim Brothers as being a secret society with a bizarre worship of Hassan al-Banna (a frequent Salafi line of attack), use their morality against them by staging sting operations, alleging affairs, etc. Granted some of this has been done by secularists complaining about the Salafis being Saudi-funded, but that's pretty minor compared to the Salafis' (illegal) use of mosques for electioneering, etc.

Round two of Egypt's elections

The second round of Egypt's interminable elections for the People's Assembly, the lower house of parliament, began this morning with little trouble. Here's a few things to look out for, since the extended process means lessons are being learned from earlier rounds:

  • The SCAF has promised to be more vigilant about campaign violations, since hundreds of complaints (including about a dozen lawsuits to have the whole elections cancelled) have been filed. Let's see if they enforce things more stringently this time around — personally, I doubt it. But at least they will have had more time to prepare and get things right inside the polling stations.
  • Last round, there were long queues on the first day of voting and few people out the second. This time around, expect some voters to skip the first day expecting the second to be faster.
  • Attempts by secular forces to coordinate their strategies and pick winners in certain districts will be tried in some places, even if coalitions such as Revolution Continues haev expressed unwillingness to deal with Egyptian Bloc candidates with ties to the old regime. I expect very limited success for this strategy because it was too late to take candidates off the ballot, and no one has the reach to marshall voters into casting their ballot more strategically.
  • That being said, voters will take their own initiative. I suspect the Egyptian Bloc, being the big winner among the secular parties in the first round, will be the logical choice for tactical voting.
  • Expect the FJP-Nour battle to intensify, particularly for IC seats. Nour lost most of those in the runoff last time, while the FJP was taken off-guard by Nour's succcess in the first round. I wouldn't be surprised if we see tensions between FJP and Nour supporters, either.
  • Menoufiya is a stronghold for the Muslim Brothers, but also for the felool. Lookout for the races in the Sadat family strongholds in the south, in Menouf and near Ahmed Ezz's steel factory, in Bagour in Kamal al-Shazli's old fiefdom.
  • Beheira might also be interesting — expect it to go strongly MB with a possible sweet vengeance for local Damanhour son Gamal Heshmat, a member of the MB's Political Bureau and a victim of NDP machinations in the last decade (I'm not sure he's running, but in any case I expect FJP to get much sympathy for the past abuses they suffered there.)
  • Sharqiya is mixed, but I wonder if the Wafd will do well there as it has done in the past through the Abaza family. My hunch is that the new electoral system creates districts that are too big to be used in this way (which is why the "big families" have failed thus far)
  • Ismailiya and Suez: the former a conservative stronghold, would not be surprised if Nour does well there, the latter a strong working class and revolutionary presence — perhaps giving Revolution Continues a boost.
  • I fear a Salafi triumph in Beni Suef, one of the most neglected governorates in Egypt, and Sohag will give us more indications of the Upper Egyptian vote: good chances there for the Egyptian Bloc due to a sizeable Christian population, and a test for the "big families" that once were for the NDP. These did not do well in Assiut (partly because the FJP and Egyptian Bloc has strong candidates), but Assiut is cosmopolitan compared to Sohag.

Salafis: Why the surprise?

This is a guest post by Nathan Field.

One of the major themes I’ve noticed in the media after the Salafi al-Nour party won 25% of the votes in the first round of Egyptian elections was a surprise (or as in this week’s In Translation – anger). Yet their success shouldn’t be considered a surprise. Here are four points to ponder:

(1) Most popular T.V. stations to 25% of the votes isn’t a huge jump:

In 2008 Ahmed Hamam and I talked to dozens of Egyptian Salafis, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and various journalists and academics for a study on Salafi Satellite TV Stations in Egypt, published in Arab Media and Society in April 2009.

While precise Nielsen-style statistics don’t exist in Egypt, the general consensus was that Salafi-oriented TV stations such as Al-Nass and Al-Rahma, featuring charismatic preachers like Mohamed Hassan, were drawing higher ratings than any other TV stations in Egypt. So the evidence of the popularity of Salafism has been clear for years.

(2) Salafis were never against politics in theory:

Critics have accused Salafis of hypocrisy for entering electoral politics post-Revolution. An accusation that assumes Salafis were somehow “quietist” or against participation in politics on principle. This is not true; their discourse has always been “political” and entering electoral politics is a logical post-Mubarak step.

The basic Salafi worldview is that society is broken and needs to be reformed (that’s a very political statement). However, the acceptable means for achieving that reform are dictated by the situation in the society they are operating in. During the Mubarak era, Salafis judged that they couldn’t achieve meaningful reform by trying to get involved in politics, so they focused on preaching, i.e. teaching Egytians how to be better Muslims. However, post-February 2011, the equation changed and as the political process opened up, they saw an opportunity to achieve change by working within the system, and without having to compromise on their values. In fact, if they didn’t enter the political game, they would probably have lost support.

(3) Don’t underestimate the “hustle” factor:

Read this excellent article by David Kirkpatrick to understand why Salafis will continue to be a major force in Egyptian politics.  In Egypt, the gaps between the different social classes are huge, culturally as much as economically and the fact is, there is often a condacscneing tendency towards the lower elements of society by those on the upper half.  And that doesn’t work in the political  favor of some of the Liberal Activist groups.

Egyptian liberals would be wise to study the example John Kennedy set when he won his first seat in Congress in 1952.  Despite being from one of the richest and most powerful families in America, John Kennedy went door-to-door in some of the toughest neighborhoods of Boston and simply listened to what average people had to say.   He figured out what they thought important and learned how to communicate effectively to people from all walks of society.  Eventually (but not at first) he became as persuasive addressing a room full of factory workers as he was a group of university professors. 

Stumping for votes is an essential ingredient of success in competitive democratic elections  but so far the liberals have been at a serious self-inflicted disadvantage. They either focus on the biggest picture of issues (such as the constitution) that don’t resonate with most average people, or they aren’t disposed to wander through the slums asking poor people about their needs. 

Bottom line:  if they don’t get better on this front, they won’t be competitive in future elections.  No one is entitled to votes on the basis of their ideas alone! The Salafis are significantly out-hustling the competition and that largely explains their success so far." 

(4) Don’t blame Saudi Arabia – they are a genuine grassroots Egyptian movement:

Critics of Salafism like to argue that they are a “Saudi import,” usually as an attempt to discredit them. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was asked this question at a recent conference in Washington DC and gave what I think is the best answer: there is not likely official, meaningful support from Saudi or other governments in the Gulf for the Salafis, especially for their post-February political activities. The Saudis are not in the business of encouraging other Islamist alternatives so its hard to see what they would gain. However, if the Salafis are receiving external funding from the Gulf, it would likely be from private individuals or institutions in the context of zakat.

Nathan Field is the Co-Founder of Industry Arabic.

Charts Galore: Round one of Egypt's elections

Caveat Emptor

Before we delve into the charts to analyse the results, a word of caution: while the results for the individual candidacy (IC) districts are official, there will be runoffs in all but four districts on Monday, and there could still be changes due to legal challenges due to campaign violations. Still, there is valuable information to be mined here for various purposes: seeing who the runoffs are between and voting accordingly — for instance if you're a liberal can't stand the Salafists, you might vote for their Muslim Brotherhood competitor just to ward them off, or conversely you may want to seek out those districts where a non-Islamist may still stand a chance. Likewise if you're a Muslim Brother, this shows which districts are battlegrounds to concentrate on — there are many districts split between Salafists and Brothers, for instance.

Even more caution is necessary with the proportional representation (PR) districts, for which all results and estimates used below have been collated from the media, since there have been no official announcements. Eventually, for both IC and PR districts, it will be fascinating to see the complete information on the votes cast — anecdotally, we for instance know that in a place like Fayoum district #2 — mostly split between the Salafists and the Brothers — one-third of votes got wasted on tiny parties that stood no chance. 

For the meantime, considering the appalling lack of diligence and transparency of the Higher Elections Commission, we must make do with what we have.

The big picture

The above map, based on our previous chart of Egypt's political parties, represents more or less the ones that have garnered enough votes to count, with each party represented according to the number of seats it obtained (or may obtain following runoffs). This picture is unlikely to change much in the remaining two rounds, and shows three big political forces: The Muslim Brothers' FJP, the Salafists (especially the Nour Party), and the Egyptian Bloc alliance led by the Free Egyptians and the Social Democratic Party. Get this chart in PDF.

The breakdown

Both the breakdowns of IC and PR races are important, but differently: for IC, the runoffs are on Monday and voters will be interested to see if their candidate of first choice made it, and if not who else they might vote for. This will be particularly important for voters interested in avoiding a certain type of candidate (say across the Islamist-secular divide) and, because there are so many FJP vs. Nour races, there will be a lot of incentives for the Muslim Brothers to rally secularists to their side with the argument that at least they are not Salafists. Or, for some people who can't stand the Muslim Brothers, to back the Salafists to make sure they don't get in (this sentiment may very well be prevalent considering the bad press the Brothers have gotten from the regime over the last few decades as agents of Iran, Hamas, freemasonry, etc.)

Here's a graphic representation of the first round, pre-runoff results for both IC and PR I put together that should enable readers to quickly see the hot races. For details on who is running, we have a full list of the IC results (and some PR results) at the bottom of this post that includes the candidates' names.



You'll probably want to download the PDF version of this image, which is a lot easier to read and is formatted to be printed on A4 paper (in color obviously). Our count makes the runoffs as follows:

FJP v. Nour: 22
FJP v. EB: 6
FJP v. felools: 4
FJP v. independents: 10
FJP v. Wafd: 1
Nour v. EB: 1
EB v. Independents: 1
Nour v. Adl: 1
Felool v. Nour: 1
Nour v. independents.: 1


As the two leading parties nationally, the FJP and Nour are running close races in a lot of districts. But the third party, the Egyptian Bloc, also has a chance at getting an additional 8 seats, although it tends to be the underdog. Cairenes alone have a chance at getting another four MPs from the Egyptian Bloc.

The full data that went into making these charts is available in PDF. It includes full results when available or at least, for PR districts, the order in which the parties came. Please let us know in the comments if you spot any errors.

Wait, there's more

I'd also like to highlight a couple of other charts a reader sent in.

The first one, by Mostafa El-Hoshy compares Salafist vs. other Islamist votes:

By Mostafa El-Hoshy — click for full sizeThe chart shows the degree to which voters went for Islamist parties generally — over half in most places and about two-thirds generally, and then the split among Islamist parties between the Salafists and the rest (i.e. mainly the Muslim Brotherhood.) What's striking here is that while the Brothers have the lead generally, their margin (the non-Salafi Win Differential) is quite small along the northern Delta and in the Fayoum — all places where the Brothers have a long-established presence. We still have much to learn about the Salafist electoral machine, but that alone is quite an achievement considering they never ran for office before. Whether it's grassroots, money or effective campaigning remains a mystery to me.

The second is also by Mostafa El-Hoshy, and compares Islamist vs. non-Islamist votes (I don't know whether parties such as al-Tayyar al-Masri, al-Adl, al-Wassat and others that may be "Islamist Lite" are included.) It's pretty self-explanatory.By Mostafa El-Hoshy — click to enlarge

You can get the spreadsheet with data for these last two charts here.

Figuring out Egypt's elections: Qasr al-Nil

The Lions of Qasr al-Nil Bridge

Here’s an exercise in how I think the votes in the proportional part of Egypt’s parliamentary elections will be calculated. Let’s take the beautiful district of Kasr al-Nil — the Fighting Lions! — where The Arabist is based, covering parts of Downtown Cairo and the tony island of Zamalek. This district slants liberal compared to the rest of the country. These are the results that have been published in the press:

  • Freedom and Justice: 162,841 votes
  • Egyptian Bloc: 73,183 votes
  • al-Wafd: 59,807 votes
  • al-Nour: 59,184 votes
  • New Independents (Ex-NDP): 28,233 votes

A quick note: the district borders are somewhat different, but a friend ran for parliament in this district in 2000 and the winner (not him) only needed about 3,000 votes. Tells you a lot about how participation has increased.

In Kasr al-Nil district, you have a total of eight seats. Take the total number of votes cast (an approximation if you only use the five top parties above — I don’t have data for the rest), and that makes 47,861 votes per seat. In other words, each seat is worth 47861 votes. You compare that figure to the result of each party that obtained at least that number of votes and get:

  • FJP: 3 seats + 18,898 remainder
  • Egyptian Bloc: 1 seat + 25,322 remainder
  • al-Wafd: 1 seat + 11,946 remainder
  • al-Nour: 1 seat + 11,323 remainder

Now, you still have two seat unassigned. These go to the two largest largest remainders: the New Independents (who didn’t get a seat at first but still got more votes than anyone else’s remainder) and the Egyptian Bloc, which has the largest remainder of the parties above.

Final results: 

  • Freedom and Justice: 3 seats
  • Egyptian Bloc: 2 seats
  • al-Wafd: 1 seat
  • al-Nour: 1 seat
  • New Independents: 1 seat

Does this make sense? Let me know if you spotted a mistake, and of course these results could apparently still change by the end of the elections because of a) the uncertainty of whether a national threshold of votes is needed (in which case the New Independents could very well lose their seat, which will go to the FJP which has the next largest remainder) and b) the need to adjust results to ensure that half of parliament is composed of workers/farmer seats. 

Don't panic. Yet.

The official results of the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections come out tonight, but a cursory look at initial results presented by parties and reported by the media paint a fairly clear picture: Islamists will be a majority in the next parliament, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Salafists have exceeded expectations to be, perhaps, the second party in Egypt.

This news has profoundly depressed most educated, middle class Cairenes I know who had hoped that the overthow of Hosni Mubarak would be followed by a relatively liberal democracy that would be inclusive of moderate Islamists. It is particularly distressing to non-Muslims, who will now fear the Islamization of public life that has taken place in the last two decades will now be accelerated, with full backing from parliament and government leaders in the next few years.

That the Muslim Brothers would perform well was expected: after all their electoral machine is excellent, they have experience and a clear message, and are a known quantity. Six months ago, when they promised to only run for a limited number of seats, it was assumed that they would be about 30% of parliament. They may very well pass the 50% mark, having decided to contest a lot more seats than initially expected. They have done so without a broad alliance with other parties, since the Democratic Alliance they belong to is at least 80% FJP.

The success of the Salafists is more of a surprise, and must reflect their grassroots presence in Egyptian society. But it is deeply worrisome, because the Salafists have made clear in their statements that they are an illiberal party with extreme views on many topics, whatever their charitable works are. I'm my opinion they should have never been legalized, on the same grounds that far-right parties are often forbidden in European countries, and particularly since Egypt has a law against religious parties (either that, or don't have the law.)

The first choice the Muslim Brothers have to face (if they do not have a majority alone) is either to rally Islamists around them or try and create a broader coalition, as they have indicated over the summer they would prefer. It's also a choice for those parties that, in a sense, ran specifically against the Brothers. They have to decide whether pragmatism should trump whatever incompatibilities exist.

Among my Egyptian friends (most decidedly on the liberal side) there is now tremendous worry about a future in which politics is ruled on the one hand by identitarian Islamist politics and on the other by a populist, hyper-nationalistic army. I don't think it has to be so, and we could very well see a transition to a democratic (but not liberal) system which allows for rotation of power. Liberals now also have to make some tough choices about consolidating their presence, making alliances with both Islamists and people associated with the former ruling party. (And never mind the regional impact of this election, the subject of a future post.)

Personally, I think that there can be a positive outcome here: if the Muslim Brothers are serious about consolidating electoral democracy, and work hard on addressing that issue, there will be other elections for those that disagree with their conservative views (or foreign policy, or economic liberalism) to make their case. The biggest lesson from this election should be that the non-Islamists in Egypt need to strategize, organize and cooperate much better than they have done so far — and most importantly of all, reconnect with the average Egyptians who were not inspired to vote for them. The other reason I have for optimism is that even if the elections returned conservative candidates, the Egyptian uprising of 2011 unleashed many progressive ideas, notably with regards to the relationship between state and civilian. That battle will continue to be fought. 

In Translation: Ahmed al-Sawy on the elections

Every week, we bring an article translated from the Arabic press, courtesy of Industry Arabic. As the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections is just about to conclude, we bring an editorial by Ahmed al-Sawy which reminds readers the elections are the beginning of a long process, not its end.

This Isn’t the Final Bout

By Ahmed al-Sawy, al-Shorouk, 29 November 2011

Whatever the results of the elections are, and whether you are satisfied with them or not, they will offer a new lesson you should try to grasp quickly. The first lesson is that when you stand at the ballot box this time, you will have a great deal more faith in the process than was previously the case, and the price for this was paid by hundreds of martyrs and thousands of victims, who faced down tyranny in your stead as if it was a “fard kifaya” – a duty which if performed by some, leaves the rest exempt. However, it is time for this exemption to come to an end, and for the confrontation to become a “fard ayn” enjoined upon every Egyptian. This time the struggle is not against the tear gas and bullets of tyrants, but a struggle at the ballot box.1

Egyptian society has paid a very high cost in this period, and it expects the return to be commensurate with the investment. If this return turns out to be less than the investment, it will be a real disaster. The value of this investment does not lie in a specific outcome, but rather in the integrity of this process, which will grant more hope that the experience will be repeated and mistakes, if found, will be corrected on subsequent occasions. After everyone claims their rights at the ballot box, they won’t go back again to the “fard kifaya” mentality.

However, as we face some minor incidents even as I write this column, I fear that the lesson we will draw now will be to absolve the Mubarak regime’s figures and policies of election fraud, since some electoral districts have seen unsettling practices which only go to show that locking ballot boxes, forging ballots, bribing voters, familial and sectarian pressure, violence and thuggery have become a deeply-ingrained culture among “election professionals.” This was not just a result of Mubarak’s policies, even if his cronies planted this culture, watered it, nurtured it and helped it grow.

Nothing will be ideal, of course – you have to prepare to accept that. The most important thing, however, is to extract clear mechanisms to correct the course, and find an authority to aid you in this. Judicial oversight will continue to preside over the entire process, and the reports from the Court of Cassation which will rule on challenges filed will operate in a different way from before. It is certain that this myth that parliament is “immune to oversight” is a myth that fell with the regime that was propping it up, and this may be an important guarantee amid the climate of extreme suspicion and impatience with the obvious negatives.

Moreover, you should accept and recognize any outcome, whatever it is – even if you observe errors and infractions. You have channels by which you can expose such infractions and challenge incorrect practices, if you ascertain that these errors are isolated incidents pertaining to a candidate, family or even an entire party or list. However, if doubt still remains, then these errors are still systematic policies of the ruling authority, so don’t forget that you have the street, which proved decisive when the former regime blocked all possibility for change through the ballot box.

You’re the decision-maker: have confidence in this. The will to act has returned to you after decades of passivity. Politics will not come to an end after elections, the ladder of democracy2 won’t be tossed aside and the squares won’t be closed down. You have just begun the struggle; you haven’t finished it. You’ve finally entered the ring: so why do you think that this round is your final bout?

  1. Fard kifaya” and “fard ayn” are terms from Islamic law. A “fard kifaya” is an obligation that falls on Muslims collectively, such as jihad and performing funerals for the dead. As long as some people undertake it, everyone else is exempt. A “fard ayn” is an obligation that everyone must perform individually, such as prayer, alms, making the hajj, etc. ↩

  2. Refers to the charge leveled against Islamists by their critics that they are using democracy as a ladder to get into power, which they’ll then toss aside after they reach their goal. ↩

Sarah Carr on the election trail

I am delighted to offer this guest post by the wonderful Sarah Carr, who blogs at Inanities.

I am a journalist, so my fate for the past two days was to drag myself between schools in Cairo looking at people, a bit like a paedophile.

We started out in Shubra, where long queues of people patiently stood in muddied streets waiting to attack the ballot box. It became clear early on who was dominating the whole affair. Outside virtually every polling station stood a small group of men with laptops providing information (voter number, which polling station they should go to) to confused voters. A useful service, but one whose legality is clouded by the fact that they information they provided was written on slips of paper bearing the insignia of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Even in Christian-majority Shubra liberal and leftist parties were strikingly absent, leaving last-minute rallying outside polling stations to the FJP and their confreres in Islam the Nour party. The same pattern was repeated in Sayeda Zeinaba, Ain Shams and Abdeen.

This was the FJP’s moment, and they knew it. Their members were positively buoyant. It reminded me of first-time winners at Wimbledon who go on about how all the sacrifice and hardship was worth it for this moment. Outside one polling station in Sayeda Zeinab, former stomping ground of the peanut-eating People’s Assembly speaker, Fathy Sorour, two smiling men, one of them holding a camera descended on me and another journalist.

We had just emerged from the polling station, and the man not holding a camera enquired as to whether we had noticed any irregularities inside. I embarked on a long description of how one FJP member had stood at the door of one room and controlled access to the room, guiding voters to the correct polling station room. I suggested that while this is a useful service, it is one better carried out by a government employee. For good measure I added that most of the violations I had seen over the two days were carried out by the FJP (but then what other parties were visible to commit violations). I stopped and asked the man who he was.

“A member of the FJP,” he said, grinning.

He listened to the accusations in good humour and then launched into a strange defence of the FJP’s motivations in these elections. I pointed out that ultimately they are in it to win it, and the man responded with a detailed description of how yesterday an FJP member had assisted a traffic cop in guiding snarled traffic outside the polling station. “It’s not all about politics!” he insisted.

My friend Sherif “Sharshar” Azer agrees. He described the election as “moulid el sandooq”, “the ballot box moulid”, a spirit reflected in the festive and self-congratulationary tone of radio coverage (not only can Egyptians queue for democracy in an orderly fashion, they can do so in rain-soaked streets!) and one report I heard that SCAF had wheeled out a military band to entertain voters while they waited. On state TV last night a correspondent, overcome with emotion, burst into tears as ballot boxes were being sealed prompting an unplanned return to an uncomfortable-looking studio anchor.

This isn’t sour grapes talking (I’m a boycotter) but the elections were, as usual, fucking boring to cover.

Sharshar, who works in an NGO, was initially enthusiastic about telling leaflet-distributing candidates that they were in breach of the law (campaigning must stop 48 hours before the vote) but soon flagged when we realised that everyone was at it, at every polling station. Also, it’s difficult to make your voice heard when a man with a huge microphone erected on a car is calling on voters to elect such an such a candidate in between snatches of an Om Kalsoum disco remix.

In fact the only events of note and excitement on both days was firstly, when Sharshar’s hub cap was half ripped off in a minor brush with a taxi and, secondly, when we saw three youths on the back of a mini pick up truck stacked with huge speakers playing rousing Shaaby pop music as one of the youths again encouraged people to vote for Fulan El-Fulany.

Shagga3 el democratateya” (“Support democratety”) a weary Sharshar mocked.

ASIDE: I also had an interesting insight into the Egyptian education system in one polling station on the second day of elections.

It being a slow day the bored judge overseeing voting allowed us to lurk about at the entrance to the school room where civil servants sat amongst half filled ballot boxes imbibing refreshments and twiddling thumbs. I read the posters on the walls and saw a handwritten one reading thusly, in English:

Circle the longest words in the following paragraph.

The butcher was cutting meat when he saw the lion. While he was sitting in the café. The photographer was drinking tea.

The subliminal association of lions with photographers might explain several facets of the treatment of the press during the Mubarak regime and beyond.

The voters I spoke to voted either FJP, Nour or Wafd. Some were not voting at all, like a man in Shubra who said that you have to know “candidates’ CVs” in order to be able to vote and all he knows about them is what they look like, “not like the old days when you knew everyone” he said, somewhat wistfully.

A journalist colleague said that she voted for the list, but not the individual candidate because she was confronted with 136 names and didn’t know any of them.

Another woman I know, Samia, said that she and her daughter deliberately ruined their vote for the same reason, and that they only voted to avoid the possibility of being fined LE 500. Samia seemed disgusted by the imposters who stared out at her from the voting paper, one of whom she described as a stocky-looking woman called “Om Mohamed”.

“Who are all these people?? I have no idea who they are,” she said despairingly, adding that a polling station employee had watched her daughter ruin her vote (by drawing a big X through it) and praised her.

Morning Egyptian Elections Roundup: FJP at 40%?

A few selections while we await the results — nothing official has been said yet, but parties are expected to make statements this afternoon that will give an indication, and incoming reports from various governorates thus far tend to confirm the expected: the FJP as first party, Salafists often as second in the countryside. The FJP appears to be making the 40% line which was at the high end of most predictions. And this is with Cairo, Alexandria and Red Sea governorates, which could be predicted to be among the more liberal parts of Egypt.

Egypt’s military takes credit for election turnout | Firstpost:

“When we plan, we execute and, at the end, we succeed,” Maj Gen Ismail Etman, a member of the ruling military council, said in a television interview. He compared the elections to one of the Egyptian military’s proudest moments — when they battled Israeli forces across the Suez Canal in 1973.

“The armed forces pulled off this election like they pulled off the crossing in 1973,” he said.

I won't comment so as not to hurt anyone's patriotic sensibilities.

SCAF expects 70% election turnout | Al-Masry Al-Youm:

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) expected the turnout of the first phase of parliamentary elections to reach 70 percent of eligible voters, and expressed hope it would reach 80 percent after extending elections for an extra day.

Preliminary reports said turnout in the Red Sea Governorate reached 50 percent. In Fayoum, it reached 60 percent; in Luxor, 55 percent; in Port Said, 65 percent; in Kafr al-Sheikh, 50 percent; in Alexandria, 55 percent; in Assiut, 60 percent and in Damietta, 65 percent.

BREAKING: Cairo election turnout might be as high as 80 per cent: Cairo deputy governor statement:

Cairo's deputy governor has come out and stated that voter turnout in the capital “might exceed 80 per cent” of those eligible to vote. With Cairo the most populated governorate in the country this says a lot about where these elections stand compared to those of recent past.

Egypt's Brotherhood leading in vote count - source | Reuters

"The lists for the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) are in the lead in most of the governorates of the first round," said a source in the FJP, the Brotherhood's party, who declined to be named.

He told Reuters the FJP-led list, which also includes several smaller parties, was leading with about 40 percent of the votes.

On the model the MB would follow — this from the organizationally powerful, politically more conservative, part of the MB's old guard: Ghozlan was the main opponent to Beltagi's call last week to support the Tahrir protests (at Spiegel):

Many have suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood might seek to emulate the Justice and Development party of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which combines Islamist leanings with a market economy -- a model prized in many Muslim countries in North Africa.

But Mahmoud Ghoslan, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that they aren't interested. "No, we don't want the Turkish model," Ghoslan said. "In Turkey, women may go to university without a headscarf. They have adultery and homosexuality. We will not allow that in Egypt. Egypt is a Muslim country. The Sharia, the Muslim legal framework, must be the foundation for everything."

Sharia, though, isn't enough of a party platform -- and the Muslim Brotherhood have yet to provide convincing answers to questions as to how they plan to stabilize the country. Instead of explaining how his group intends to revive Egypt's stalled economy, Ghoslan complains about Western prejudice. "Everyone says that we are hardliners. But we are wise, even-tempered and moderate. Of the nine members of our leadership council, five of them received their Ph.D. in the US. We are open-minded," Ghoslan says.

Despite follow-up questions, Ghoslan declines to provide details. Egypt isn't Iran, he insists, and Hamas is only an offshoot of the Brotherhood -- and not one they want to emulate. "We will develop our own model," he says.

And the MB is also — as I predicted on this site many times (see here for example)— now moving to leverage the elections to pressure SCAF on the next government. From the NYT:

In an interview, Essam el-Erian, a leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, argued that the unexpectedly high turnout for the parliamentary elections indicated a popular demand for more civilian control.

Although a top general on the ruling military council said as recently as last weekend that the council would continue to choose the prime minister even after Parliament was formed, Mr. Erian argued that the turnout showed that voters wanted the new Parliament’s majority, and not the generals, to have that power, just as in other parliamentary systems.

“Millions of Egyptians voted because they wanted a strong, democratic Parliament,” Mr. Erian said.
“Any government has to have a vote of confidence from the Parliament,” he added. “That is a basic principle, even if it is not written into the law.”

His assertion is an early signal that the Brotherhood intends to use the seats it may gain in Parliament to push to limit military rule, even though it declined to join its liberal rivals in several days of street protests last week aimed at the same goal.

And from the Obama administration:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration offered tempered praise this week as millions of Egyptians cast ballots in an election likely to be the country's freest and fairest ever — a vote the U.S. insisted go forward despite objections by pro-democracy street protesters.

The administration wanted timely elections even though they risked leaving the U.S. with less influence and fewer friends in the Middle East.

After two days of largely peaceful voting marked by high turnouts, U.S. spokesmen termed Egypt's first vote since Hosni Mubarak's ouster a success. They focused on the openness of the parliamentary election and not on the Islamic hardliners who may end up the big winners — or what that might mean for U.S. policy or U.S. ally Israel.

"As much as it's important to protest in Tahrir Square, the real future — the democratic future — of Egypt will be decided in the ballot box," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "The Egyptian people are now exercising their democratic right in a peaceful fashion that will lead to real democratic change in the long term for Egypt. That's a very good thing."