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Five Decisive Surprises From The First Round Of Egypt's Presidential Election

From low turnout to campaign blunders, the first round of Egypt's presidential voting -- which saw Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy and former Mubarak ally Ahmed Shafik, advance to next month's runoff -- was anything but predictable.

Article illustrative image Partner logo First steps of democracy (Gigi Ibrahim)

AL MASRY AL YOUM/Worldcrunch 

CAIRO - For the first time, our generation has now experienced the bitterness of the 1967 Naksa, when Egypt was defeated in the Arab-Israeli War. I am now able to understand what it is like to have high hopes dashed so thoroughly; and how harsh it is to feel that while your demands are right, the power to achieve them is in someone else’s hands.

We were misled by opinion polls of this first round, which ultimately saw Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy and former Mubarak-era Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik advance to next month's runoff, according to the official announcement Monday afternoon. 

No, it did not go as we had hoped and planned. Frankly though, had it not been for the following five surprises combined, the results would look considerably different. I don't think anyone in Egypt projected the result of the vote to turn out the way it did. Let us take a quick glance at those five surprises.

1. The 46 percent turnout
More conservative observers predicted around 70 percent voter participation, while several polls expected turnout to ratchet up to more than 90 percent.

The participation of 70 percent of eligible voters would have added some 10 million more votes to the ballot boxes. Those uncast votes were most likely for moderate conservative Egyptians who do not belong to the polarized camps of Morsy and Shafik. 

Could anyone really have predicted that turnout would be less than 50 percent?

2. The breakdown of the Moussa camp
Some predicted former Arab League chief Amr Moussa’s defeat in the first round — though not in such an ignominious way. Moussa made the same mistake as Abouel Fotouh: he too introduced himself as a candidate for “everyone.” Voters, meanwhile, searched for candidates who would represent them in clearer terms. The image of a president-for-all tactic led to Moussa and Abouel Fotouh’s elimination in the first round. This same strategy would have worked better if employed in the runoff. This is the first lesson for everyone wishing to run in the 2016 presidential election.

Morsy and Shafik, meanwhile, spoke in clear terms to their tight blocs of supporters — with Shafik lamenting the success of the revolution and Morsy touting the implementation of Islamic Sharia. That way, each secured the 25 percent needed to guarantee qualification for the runoff.

Could anyone have really imagined that Moussa would get only 12 percent of the vote in the first round?

3. The insufficient Salafi support for Abouel Fotouh
I believe Abouel Fotouh lost more votes than he gained as a result of Salafi support. It would be unfair to state that Salafis sold Abouel Fotouh out after taking a look at the result of the vote, particularly in Beheira, Damietta and Qena, although the Salafis indeed did not support him as strongly as they did their nominees in the parliamentary elections.

Did anyone predict that Abouel Fotouh would get a mere 22 percent of the vote in Alexandria, the Salafi stronghold?

4. Shafik’s success in Delta governorates
It was projected that remnants of the dissolved National Democratic Party, groups such as “We are sorry, Mr. President,” and some of the older generations would back Shafik, perhaps giving him the lead in a governorate such as Monufiya. But nobody could fathom, by any stretch of the imagination, that they could propel him well into the runoff.

The vast majority of people believed that the competition in the runoff would be between Morsy on one hand and Moussa or Abouel Fotouh on the other. When did Shafik’s campaign manage to drum up such tremendous support for his candidacy?

Could anyone have imagined that Shafik would rank first in the Brotherhood Delta strongholds of Qalyubiya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya and Daqahlia governorates?

5. Sabbahi winning 20 percent of the vote
Having exceeded all expectations, Sabbahi was indeed the dark horse of the first round. Sabbahi’s candidacy was underestimated due to the weakness of his presidential campaign. But Sabbahi was able to inspire people, and managed to recruit hundreds of thousands of voters daily in a short span of time preceding the election.

Little did we see that Abouel Fotouh was dipping while Sabbahi was rising. Many, including myself, wrote in support of the idea of strategically voting for Abouel Fotouh. We were wrong.

But did anyone expect Sabbahi to rank first in Cairo and Alexandria?

The situation today would be different altogether if one of the above surprises was absent, and the runoff would have been between either Morsy and Abouel Fotouh; Shafiq and Sabbahi; or Morsy and Sabbahi.

But as it turns out, the hoped-for runoff with Sabbahi or Abouel Fotouh will not take place, and there is no place for a second runner-up.

I cannot blame either Sabbahi and Abouel Fotouh for not dropping out, and thus avoiding the splintering of the pro-revolution liberal vote. The revolution’s candidates may have indeed lost, but the revolution lives on. Let us not cry over spilled milk. The revolution did not happen so that Abouel Fotouh, Sabbahi or Morsy would win Egypt’s presidency.

The revolution took place so that this nation would be able to choose its ruler, so that power would not be hereditarily transferred to Gamal Mubarak. There will be no schools carrying the names of presidents or their wives, nobody will be able to cover up corruption, and no president will even have a fleeting thought about passing on power to his son.

There will undoubtedly be mistakes, but the people are now able to hold officials accountable.

Translated by Dina Zafer

Read the full story at Al Masry Al Youm

Photo - Gigi Ibrahim 

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