The first free presidential elections in Egypt’s history looked like exciting and unpredictable. And the unofficial result has lived up to those expectations. Most reports say Mohamed Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, and the only Army officer in the race, will face off in a second round. This would be the last chapter of an old and epic war to control the Arab giant between its two most powerful institutions: the Army and the Brotherhood. And this means a loooot of tension in the coming three weeks. However, other reports argue that Hamdin Sabahi has still options to pass to the run-off.
Here you have a few quick takes on the elections:
-The power of MB’s organization: The popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood has decreased notably during the last months, but its electoral machine still works perfectly. Despite having a weak candidate and a strong competitor in Abulfoutouh, the Brotherhood has won the elections again. To understand the prowess of this machine we should take into account that Morsi got less than 5% in polls just three weeks before the elections.
-The amazing meltdown of Amr Moussa: The biggest surprise of election day. Moussa led almost all polls steadily during the last year. He was considered a frontrunner thanks to his experience and wide name recognition. At the start of the campaign, some analyst even thought he could win even get more than 50% in the first round. We still don’t know the final numbers, but it looks that he will be the fifth. It’s not easy to explain how this happened, but the main factor was his undefined profile towards the Revolution. He was considered a member of the old regime by revolutionaries, but he also distanced from Mubarak. So he lost at the same time the votes of pro and anti-Mubarak. He wanted to have them all, and he got none.
-The fluidity of public opinion: Most analysts said that polls in Egypt are unreliable since it’s a nascent industry. The results proved this correct. But I also think that the fluidity of public opinion was huge due to the lack of solid political affiliations by most Egyptians (except for Brotherhood militants). Many people said that they changed their minds several times during the campaign, and some even were still undecided on election day. Probably, late deciders broke for Hamdin Sabahi, who was not considered a top candidate just one week ago.
-Pure candidates for a polarized time: Curiously enough, the two likely winners are the two candidates that arise the biggest rejection within the Egyptian society. As the campaign became polarized, people chose the most radical and “ideologically pure” candidates, that is, the hard-core islamist and Mubarak’s candidate. The other winner of the night, Hamdin Sabahi, also was pure in his pro-revolutionary and secular stances. The two centrist candidates, Moussa and Abulfoutouh, the big losers.
-The shrinking Islamist vote: Yes Morsi won, but the percentage of Islamist vote showed a remarkable reduction in comparison to legislative elections, just hold 4 months ago. At that time, Islamists of all stripes got 75% of the vote. Yesterday, they just made about 50%. If I was an islamist, I would take the result as a serious warning.
-Lower turnout than expected: Although it is true that there was a high excitement about the elections in many parts of the country, the turnout was lower than expected, around 50%. So either people were not impressed by the candidates or they don’t trust the transition process. Or maybe there is a problem with the census.
-Best possible scenario for the Brotherhood?: If the Brothers could have chosen a rival before the elections, they would have chosen Shafiq. It seems that a lot of people who never thought they would ever vote for the Brotherhood might have to do in order to prevent the return of a Mubarak loyalist. For them, it would be like the French socialists voting for Chirac and against Le Pen in 2002 elections. On the contrary, if the rival was Sabahi, it would be much tougher.
-Despite all, a progress: A run-off between Morsi and Shafiq would leave many revolutionaries (and Western diplomats) very unhappy. Whatever the result, there are some positive developments: 1) many Egyptians were eager to vote, they want democracy, no way back 2) transparent process of counting, much better than in parlamentary elections. There were some violations, and allegations of vote-buying, but that’s impossible to prevent in a poor country.