A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 28, 2011

Egypt's Election Day (Well, the First Day of the First Round of the First Phase): Some Things to Keep in Mind

Despite the ongoing tensions, Egypt votes today. More power to them.

Above, a Google banner tribute for the Egyptian vote, at Google Egypt. (Link may change after today.)

Well, that's imprecise. Not all Egyptians vote today, nor will anything be settled today. Today is actually the first of two days of voting for the first round of the first phase of voting for the lower house; the first phase is only for nine of Egypt's 27 Governorates (Muhafazat, provinces). (At the time of the fall of Mubarak there were 29; two new ones created under Mubarak, 6 October and Helwan, have since been abolished and re-absorbed into Giza and Cairo respectively, from which they had been carved out.)  In fact, Egyptians are going to be voting for somebody somewhere pretty much continually from here to next March, so don't plan to stay up tonight waiting for the results. Apparently the authorities figured if Egyptians want real elections, let's stretch it out as long as possible.

Here's the short form which I'm taking from this Arabic site by the Higher Elections Commission:
28-29 November: First round of first phase for People's Assembly (Lower House): Governorates of  Cairo, Fayyum, Luxor, Port Said, Damietta, Alexandria, Kafr al-Sheikh, Asyut, and Red Sea.
5-6 December: Second Round: runoffs for First Phase governorates where a runoff is required.
14-15 December: First round of People's Assembly vote for the second group of Governorates: Giza, Bani Suef, Menufiyya, Sharqiyya, Ismailiyya, Suez, Buhaira, Sohag, and Aswan.
21-22 December: Second round runoffs for the Phase two Governorates.
3-4 January 2012:  First round of People's Assembly voting for the third phase group of Governorates: Minya, Qalyubiyya, Gharbiyya, Daqahliyya, North Sinai, South Sinai, Wadi al-Jadid, Matruh, Qena.
10-11 January: Second Round runoff for the above.
13 January: Final date to announce results for the People's Assembly.
Last half of January: First session of the People's Assembly
29-30 January: First round for first phase Governorates (same grouping as for lower house) for the Shura Council (Upper House).
5-6 February: Runoffs for the above.
14-15 February: First round, second phase Governorates Shura Council
21-22 February: Runoff round, second phase Governorates.
4-5 March: First round, third phase Governorates, Shura Council.
11-12 March: Runoffs for the above.
14 March: Last day to announce Shura Council results.
24 March: First session of Shura Council.

So what we learn today and tomorrow will give us some clues, but it won't give us all the answers. The divisions are not even geographical: Upper Egypt, the Delta, and the outlier Governorates are divided among the three phases.

Non-Egypt-hands may look at the phase one Governorates and say, but, both Cairo and Alexandria are voting today and tomorrow? Don't they encompass the bulk of the population? But what is voting today is Cairo Governorate. What we think of today as Greater Cairo spans three Governorates: Cairo, Giza, and, increasingly as Cairo's industrial suburbs and worker's housing creeps northward into the Delta, Qalyubiyya. Cairo votes today and tomorrow; Giza in round two; Qalyubiyya in round three. (Until 6 October and Helwan were merged back into Giza and Cairo earlier this year, Greater Cairo comprised five Governorates. I hope that, unlike my own voting precinct in Northern Virginia, the polling places aren't in local school cafeterias. If they are, the kids are going to need to bring lunch a lot of days this winter.

Seriously though, may all go well, and may violence not disrupt this timeline.                                                          

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