Winners have been declared in the Egyptian first-phase runoff elections that took place last Monday and Tuesday. While the results hold no major surprises, they do provide us with answers to the key questions that I posed beforehand.
Fifty-two seats were being contested in the runoff elections. Elections were cancelled in two of those seats due to court rulings. In the 50 seats where people voted, the Muslim Brotherhood won 34 seats and the Salafists six. The remaining ten seats were divided between non-Islamist parties and individuals, who won six seats, and former NDP members, who won four seats. These results were expected, as the Islamists were competing against each other in 25 seats, ensuring an Islamist victory, and were ahead of their competitors in 18 others, two of which were the ones cancelled. The Islamists thus lost only one seat in which they were ahead in the first round.
The current division of the Egyptian parliament after the first round (166 seats) is as follows:#more#
Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) and minor coalition partners: 80 seats
Islamic Alliance: 34 seats
Egyptian Bloc: 17 seats
Wafd Party: 12 seats
Revolution Continues Coalition: 5 seats
Center Party (Islamist but more moderate than MB): 4 seats
Justice Party: 1 seat
Former NDP members: 9 seats
Independents: 4 seats
Voter turnout plummeted in the runoff elections. In Cairo’s 8th district, voter turnout fell by 51 percent, in Cairo’s 4th by 41 percent, in Cairo’s 6th by 39 percent, and in Alexandria’s 1st by 37 percent. Turnout outside the cities also decreased, though to a lesser extent.
This decrease in participation is important to observe. These voters were drawn in the first round to come out and vote for specific local-based candidates on the individual seats. Forced to also choose a party list, they chose the Muslim Brotherhood list because it was the only viable option. The non-Islamists never provided the voters with any program or policy and thus no rational reason to vote for them, but those voters are not Muslim Brotherhood members. When their local candidates were not present in the runoff, they chose to stay home. The gap between the votes that the Muslim Brotherhood received on the party lists and that its candidates received on the individual seats is precisely the pool of voters that non-Islamists should seek to address. By fielding serious local candidates that have actual grassroots support, on the individual seats, non-Islamists can have a fighting chance. They won’t get a majority, but at least they will be able to win more seats.
The Salafists reached a ceiling in the first round. With the exception of two districts where their candidate in the runoff allied himself with a non-Islamist local candidate in front of the Muslim Brotherhood, they were not able to gain more votes for their individual candidates. In those two districts Salafists increased their votes by 70 percent. Otherwise, on average Salafists running alone against the Muslim Brotherhood increased their votes by only 10 percent.
The Salafists performed badly in the individual seats. While they were able to win 28 seats on the party lists, they only won six seats in the individual-seats category. The Salafists, newcomers to the electoral process, performed better in larger districts that don’t require a local concentration. As a general rule, the larger the district, the better the Salafist performance will be. Non-Islamists keen on finding a way to defeat the Salafists should rethink their insistence on the party-list system. Going back to only individual-seat elections might not end the Islamists completely, but it will certainly cut back their seats.
No Christian or woman was able to win a seat on the individual-seat system. For Christians and women, the only way to enter parliament is being placed on top of party lists. We are thus still faced with a parliament that will be solely composed of Muslim males.
The most important story of the runoff elections is that blood has been spilled between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. In Alexandria’s 2nd district, the Muslim Brotherhood defeated Alexandria’s leading Salafist Abdel Moneim El Shahat. The Salafists are furious with this defeat, especially since the MB had originally informed them that while it would back a competitor, he was not an MB candidate and thus their support for him would be limited. The MB’s decision to throw its full force behind him and defeat the Salafist leader was thus seen as a stab in the back. On the other hand, in Alexandria’s 4th district, the Salafists defeated Hamdy Hassan, an important MB leader and former member of parliament. Observers should watch how each party will react and deal with its Islamist competitor in the next rounds.
Lastly, as part of the Salafist alliance, two members of the terrorist organization Gamaa Islamiya won seats in Asyut’s 1st and 4th districts. While the State Department does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Salafists terrorist organizations, Gamaa Islamiya, whose spiritual leader is the Blind Sheikh, is officially designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Bonus News of the Day: The Muslim Brotherhood candidate Alaa Hamza has been elected president of Ain Shams University in Cairo.
— Samuel Tadros is a research fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.