Although so far we only have the results of the first round -there are three and the last one will be held on January 10th -, there are a few conclusions we can draw. Since elections are always about competition, here we have the winners and losers, and why.
Salafis: Few people expected them to perform so well in the polls. The coalition Nour has got 23% of the vote, becoming the second bloc in the future Parliament. During Mubarak’s regime, they did not get involved in politics, but they had a network of mosques with deep roots in the Egyptian society. They are very well organized, and they have the invaluable help of several satellite Saudi channels that spread their beliefs.
Muslim Brotherhood: Even if their result is within the limits of most expectations, though in the upper side, it is not easy to win elections clearly. They showed their organizational prowess the day of the elections, assigning several delegates in every polling station, and also their discipline and capacity to perform. Now they can claim with facts and not only words that they are the most popular Egyptian party.
SCAF: The military Junta was against the wall last week. Both national and international pressure was mounting while people and police fought a bloody battle around Tahrir. The elections worked as a safety valve, drowning the demands for a quick transfer of power. However, the generals, who described the elections as a complete success, might have just won some time. The next showdown might come after some weeks, when the new Parliament is established.
Fulul: The elections were a complete disaster for the “remnants” of the old regime. None of their party lists got more than 3% of the votes, so they will likely have a negligible presence in the new Parliament. Most expectations, though, had estimated that they would end up with around 30% of the seats, especially by winning single district races.
Liberals: If the Islamist parties are the winners, the liberals must be considered the losers. The first secular party, the Egyptian Bloc, gathered around 12% of the votes, almost half as much as the Salafis. Split between too many parties and factions, liberals must get their act together and constitute parties or political blocs with an identity that could be recognized by voters. Their organization, undermined by lack of time, and their campaign was poor.
Tahrir: The SCAF will not fall anytime soon, as the masses in Tahrir claimed during the second wave of the Egyptian Revolution. They got an important concession from Tantawi: a deadline to transfer power to a civilian government in next July. Nonetheless, it does not seem a gain big enough compared to the high price paid in the street battles.
WHY THIS RESULT?
Some liberals claim that the excellent result for Islamist forces were due to rigging the polls, manipulating the voters with false information, and a lack of time to prepare for the elections. And they are right. But only partly. I have the impression that without all these reasons, liberal parties might have fared better, but they would still be a minority in the new Parliament.
My sense is that many Egyptians want to give the Islamists a try. They think that all the imported ideologies from the West have failed them: the liberal experiment of the 30s and 40s was disappointing; Nasser’s socialism did not meet expectations economically or militarily (1967 nakba); and Mubarak’s neoliberalism -or rather crony capitalism- just increased the gap between a wealthy elite and an impoverished minority.
Some may argue that all these ideologies were not properly applied in Egypt. And that is true. But what counts is people’s perceptions, and they seem inclined to prove an endogenous ideology that enjoys the gleam of authenticity. Now the Islamists face the toughest of their challenges: not to add their project to that trunk full of old broken Egyptian dreams.