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The Egyptian Elections: Analyzing the First Round

Samuel Tadros

While the final results of the Egyptian elections have not been officially announced, the information available makes the outcome all but sealed. As we predicted, the Islamist tsunami has begun and the wave will only rise higher in the next two rounds. While this might come as a shock to readers of theNew York Times, anyone actually observing Egypt outside of the lens of Tahrir, Cairo, and the imagined liberals would find the results quite expected.

To understand why NYT readers will be so shocked, one has only to look at the reporting from Cairo they have been reading. An Egyptian activist was quoted in February predicting that the Muslim Brotherhood would receive 10 percent of the vote. In June, readers were informed that the Muslim Brotherhood was facing “internal divisions, as the unifying sense of opposition to a secular dictatorship fades and various factions including two breakaway political parties and much of the group’s youth move toward the political center.”

And the Salafists? According to the NYT’s David Kirkpatrick (and one wonders why he still has a job after getting pretty much everything in Egypt wrong for the past ten months), writing as late as the 28 of November, the Salafists are “less organized” and their “relative strength is one of the major questions hanging over the polls.” Imagine their shock today when informed that “a big surprise was the strong showing of ultra-conservative Islamists, called Salafis.” Surprising indeed!

In the coming days, readers will be bombarded with editorials and news reports about the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood. The NYT, which will enter history for coining the astonishing term “a liberal Islamist” in August, will attempt to show us how nice the Brotherhood actually is. After all, back in February, we were told that the Muslim Brotherhood is actually very much like the Catholic Church. “As the Roman Catholic Church includes both those who practice leftist liberation theology and conservative anti-abortion advocates, so the Brotherhood includes both practical reformers and firebrand ideologues.”

Back on planet earth, the election results paint a very gloomy picture of the chances of non-Islamists in the remaining rounds. Let us take a look at some of the numbers involved.

1. As expected, the real battle was between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. In nearly every single district in Egypt with the exception of a few in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood came in first place, followed by the Salafists’ Islamic Alliance. The gap between both groups and the rest of the parties is humongous. In Fayyoum’s first district, for example, out of 445,000 votes cast, the MB received 200,000, the Saalfists 130,000. The Egyptian Bloc received less than 10,000.

2. The Salafists gave the MB a run for their money in the governates, also as expected. In Kafr El Sheikh’s first district, out of 700,000 votes cast, the MB received 210,000 and the Salafists 275,000. In Fayyoum’s second district, the MB received 130,000 votes compared to the Salafists’ 116,000.

3. The imagined Sufi balance to the Islamists proved to be a pipe dream. Not a single Sufi won a seat, nor did they affect the results. Sufism in Egypt has no political ramifications.

4. The Wafd Party performed poorly. It will get a seat here and there, but it is not a relevant player.

5. The Egyptian Bloc performed relatively well, but that is simply a reflection of Christian votes. There is a clear correlation between the bloc’s numbers and the number of Christians in a district. In districts with high Christian concentration, such as Asyut and Cairo and Alexandria, they managed to win a number of seats; in places with no Christians, such as Damietta, they received 9,000 votes out of 274,000 cast.

6. Candidates matter. Even in party list elections, the name on top can add a lot to a list. The few seats that El Wafd won are in places where their lists were headed by known figures with actual grassroots support.

7. The former NDP candidates proved to be totally irrelevant in the elections. The election law with its wide districts had killed the ability of local families to balance the Islamist onslaught.

8. The MB’s best performance proved to be in the individual seats. Out of a total of 56 seats available, the MB won two outright without a need for a runoff and is in competition for 47 seats in the runoff. In many of those seats, the runoff is between MB candidates and Salafists, ensuring an Islamist victory. 

9. The complicated electoral system resulted in 500,000 invalid votes out of a total 8,500,000. Egyptians continue to be confused as to how they are actually supposed to vote.

10. The Revolution Continues coalition performed poorly. They will win very few seats.

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