A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Egypt: A Few Early Thoughts After Round One

The two-day Egyptian first round of the first phase of elections has ended.Until the votes are counted it will be hard to draw any conclusions, except the obvious one that things were (largely) peaceful.  Given the large number of parties and candidates, many races will no doubt go to runoff as well. And only a third of the governorates have even voted, so we're a long way from knowing who's leading. A few observations, however:
  • By all accounts women turned out in very large numbers, even in traditionally conservative areas like Asyut in Upper Egypt, but nationwide. Asyut is a stronghold of radical Islamists, but also has a large Coptic population. Does a large turnout of women work against the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis? Maybe.
  • Copts are also said to have turned out in large numbers. That could also be a reaction to the Brotherhood, though turnout was high across the board.
  • Parties are already complaining and crying foul about alleged violations, and I'm sure there were irregularities, but no one is claiming the large-scale, systematic ballot-box stuffing that used to go on. At least not yet.
  • Turnout was huge with long lines on day one; on day two some precincts were nearly empty; everyone voted on the first day, even if it meant standing in line for hours. Some are speculating that they were afraid there wouldn't actually be a second day. Old suspicions die hard.
Now comes the counting.

1 comment:

D said...

Thanks for withholding firm judgments at this point. Others have been very quick to decry big wins by Muslim Brothers and Salafis. A WINEP commentary tries to explain why "undemocratic" forces seem to be winning a free election. Maybe democracy IS absent from the DNA of Arabs. In today's WAPO you have Jackson Diehl forced to admit that everyone he talked to seems to prefer the military's go slow approach, but Jackson keeps hoping the liberals and "revolutionaries" he favors will emerge at the end of the electoral process in which he clearly believes. Michelle Dunne discerns what is wrong with elections. Pity the true believers who discover that democracy is messy.