The results of Egypt’s 2015 parliamentary elections were both expected and surprising.
While the general political tendencies of Egyptian voters were more or less manifested in the results of the first two stages of the post-Muslim Brotherhood road map – presidential elections and the referendum on the amended constitution – the third and last stage has offered a much deeper insight into the prevailing mood.
The victory of several of Egypt’s most controversial figures in the past few years did not come as a big surprise, since it was common knowledge that they have following, But the fact that they got the most votes was something of a surprise.
This specifically applies to lawyer Mortada Mansour and TV anchors Tawfik Okasha and Abel Rahim Ali, known for their fiery rhetoric against their adversaries.
Professor of political psychology Fathi al-Sharqawi argued that Egyptians now prefer infamous candidates to intellectual or politically savvy ones. “They believe that troublemakers are the ones who would be able to prevail and get what they or members of their constituencies want and force others to accept it even if only through offensive means,” he told the Egyptian daily independent al-Masry al-Youm.
The majority of successful candidates, Sharqawi added, are also staunch regime loyalists. “This, again, is something most Egyptian voters want now since they have not gotten rid of the old official link between opposition and treason or at least lack of patriotism,” he explained. “They also got bored of intellectual talk about dialogue and reform and so on.”
Journalist Sherif Abdeen said Egyptian voters have been experimenting with politics since the 2011 Revolution. “They first experimented with Islamists in the 2012 elections and when Islamists failed they decided to experiment once more with controversial people who seem quite powerful and capable of getting their way,” he wrote in the semi-official newspaper al-Ahram.
Abdeen added that Egyptians also experimented with former police and army officers, the likes of whom were not part of the 2012 parliament. “Candidates of such background appeal to people’s current tendency towards achieving stability, as opposed to the turmoil that followed the revolution and the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he wrote.
Abdeen described Egyptian voters as “politically moody” and inclined to “go to extremes.”
Rami Mohsen, head of the Center for Parliamentary Consultations, agreed with this view. “Egyptian voters are totally unpredictable,” he said in an interview with the Egyptian satellite channel Sada al-Balad.
al-Nour Party decline
A report issued by the Egyptian Center for Free Democratic studies attributed the remarkable decline in the popularity of the ultra-orthodox al-Nour Party to general disillusionment with using a religious discourse in politics. “Voters did not even respond to other traditional methods used by al-Nour like distributing money,” said the report, adding that the party’s shock at the huge gap between the seats it got this time and in 2012 made it consider withdrawing altogether.
Islamist movements’ expert Ahmed Ban, believes that al-Nour got few seats because average citizens no longer trust Islamist parties, and also because it lost a sizable portion of its staunch supporters. “This happened when the party was forced by law to include Christians on its lists and this angered its ultra-conservative followers who were already reluctant to accept the idea of partisan work,” he wrote in the news website Dotmasr.
Ban noted that while al-Nour has been in the limelight and its failure to secure many seats was the subject of continuous analysis, it is not the only party that lost. “Several liberal parties who were quite popular in the 2012 elections are also no longer supported by the Egyptian public because voters’ tendencies have generally changed,” he explained. “Add to this the fact that the turnout this time was remarkably less.”
As for seats won by Christians, Journalist Magdi George does not consider 36 such a significant number, as many had argued. “This is out of a total of 568 seats, which translates into only 6 percent,” he wrote in the online newspaper Copts United. “This does not mean that sectarianism has disappeared from Egypt as some people say.”
George explained that the number of seats is not what Christians hoped for since it does not reflect their real percentage in the Egyptian population.
“Also, out of the 36 winners, 24 were included in lists as stipulated by the law, so they do not reflect any change in the stance of Egyptians voters on Christian candidates. This leaves us with 12 individual candidates, which is a very small number that does not differ a lot from the days of Mubarak.”
Women in parliament
Journalist Basma Mustafa noted that the number of women in the 2015 parliament, 73, marks a remarkable departure from the 2012 voting tendencies.
“Women in 2015 got 73 seats compared to 11 out of 508 in 2012,” she wrote in the news website Masreiat.
Mervat al-Tellawi, head of the National Council for Women in Egypt, admits that the percentage is still small, yet considers it a very good start.
“This number is a symbolic victory for women rights in Egypt and female citizens are counting on those women now because they are the ones who would know their problems best and feel for them,” she told the al-Monitor website.
According to Tellawi, there is a change in voters’ tendencies as far as women are concerned. “Women managed to win seats in parts of Egypt that are particularly known for their patriarchal culture and tribal loyalties,” she added.SHOW MORE