The Egyptian Presidential Elections: Preliminary Observations


UPDATE: 7 pm Israel time Friday.

Last night Palestinian vandals painted swastikas, Palestinian flags, and “Palestine Is Ours” all over the ancient (6th century) Naaran Synagogue near Jericho which is famed for its beautiful floor mosaic.

Part of the famous Naaran mosaic this morning

It was reported this morning that investigators have discovered that Iran is now enriching uranium to 27%–while the West has “generously” decided to give Iran until mid-June to negotiate about its nuclear program. More on this tomorrow.

TODAY’S BLOG

Reports from the Egyptian presidential race have been dribbling in all day with the result that, if the “apparent” vote percentages stay the same, there will be a June 16-17 run-off between Mohammed Mursi and one of three other possible candidates (Ahmed Shafiq, Abdel Fotouh, or Hamdeen Sabahi) .

There is no official vote count yet (counting from the final uncounted precincts in Cairo and Giza is not expected to be completed until tomorrow); nevertheless, each party has its own observers at the polls who are tallying the votes as they are counted. With approximately 85% of the vote counted, voters seem to have divided their votes as follows (there is a slight % range because of varying observer reports):

Mohammed Mursi (Muslim Brotherhood): 26%–25%

Ahmed Shafiq (Mubarak’s last Prime Minister): 23%–22%

Hamdeen Sabahi (self-described socialist nationalist following in the footsteps of Gamal Nasser–endorsed by”the poor” and the youth involved in the Egyptian revolution last year): 20%-19%

Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh (Islamist and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood): 20%–19%

Your humble servant finds these results fascinating on several levels.

1. Hamdeen Sabahi, who billed himself as the alternative candidate because he is not aligned with the Islamists or with the remnants of the Mubarak regime, experienced a huge surge of support in the last three weeks. He still has a chance of finishing second.

2. Though the two Islamist candidates received nearly 50% of the vote, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mursi got only around 25% is an almost shockingly poor result for the Brotherhood–it is less than half the vote that the Brotherhood garnered in the previous legislative elections.

Whether Abdel Fotouh’s constituency (Fotouh pointedly resigned from the Brotherhood several years ago) will lend its support to Mursi is anyone’s guess–assuming Fotouh does not finish second.

3. Not only did the Brotherhood have a poor showing, but the two candidates associated with Islam (Mursi and Fotouh) were only able to muster about 45%–compared to almost 75%  won by Islamic parties a scant five months ago in the legislative elections. Does this indicate a growing Egyptian disenchantment with Islamism or merely a disenchantment with the candidates?  Or does it simply mean that the Salafists stayed home after their candidate was disqualified earlier this month?

4. The support for Ahmed Shafiq, who looks like the likely opponent of Mursi in the run off, shows that some Egyptians still long for the relative stability of the Mubarak regime, particularly in light of the fact that the Egyptian economy has plummeted into bankruptcy, and Egyptian society is on the verge of complete destabilization with increasing crime and decreasing public services.

5. Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former foreign minister, and secretary-general of the Arab League–and the leader in some opinion polls as recently as late March–is ingloriously out.

What is the effect of the election on Egypt’s relationship with Israel? Obviously, it is far too early to say.

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