Monday, March 21, 2011

Egypt and Democracy: Referendum on Constitutional Amendments By the Numbers

The news is out, Egyptian voted overwhelmingly, nearly 77%, to accept the constitutional amendments.  

More than 18 million valid ballots were counted, with 77.2 percent of voters approving the changes, Mohammed Attia, the head of the judicial commission overseeing the referendum, said today at a press conference in Cairo.

“This is the first referendum after the people regained Egypt,” said Attia. “The citizen felt after the January 25 revolution that his vote counts.” Turnout was about 41 percent, he said.

Many believe that the referendum will put the Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of the NDP back into power.  The Muslim Brotherhood was campaigning hard to get the vote to "yes".  They say it is to return the government to civilian rule as soon as possible, but most who did not support the referendum believe that it would give the MB and NDP an advantage over the now disorganized "liberals".

Those voting "yes" likely had more reasons than just supporting the MB.  Many related that they just wanted to "move forward" or return Egypt to stability.  An interesting dichotomy as it may be difficult to do both.

The "youth" are, understandably, disconcerted by the "yes" vote when they were campaigning for a "no".  There is a realization that most of the "revolt" took place in the urban areas and that "Cairo is not Egypt".

Cairo is not Egypt. This may seem obvious to others, but let me repeat that point again: CAIRO IS NOT EGYPT. Stop your  Cairo-is-the-center-of-the-universe chauvinism. 25 million live in Cairo, 60 million live elsewhere.

As previously mentioned here, urban populations and rural populations have different agendas, political persuasions:

in times of turmoil and crisis, people tend to do two things: fall back on their conservative roots as a bulwark against the insanity and bet on the people/things that they know. Also, urban groups tend to forget about their rural counterparts out in "fly over country" (as we call it). Those groups almost always trend more conservatively. Particularly because they are often older since the young tend to flee towards the urban centers for jobs and education.
 It is also the reason that the MB has an opportunity to take 30% or more of parliament seats. These are political realities that any liberal youth must keep in mind when discussing how they will organize and create a power base. 

The numbers clearly outline the issue and where the liberals will have to concentrate their funds and efforts to gain any seats in parliament.  The Arabist has a "red v. blue" map, red voted "yes" and blue (actually, purple since more red + blue =) "no".  His basic conclusions actually support the "urban v. rural", "liberal v. conservative" matrix.

What does this tell us? Basically, that governorates with a large urban population (Cairo, Alexandria, Giza, Assiut) had a higher proportions of "no" votes, as did those sparsely populated governorates that have a large proportion of tourism workers (Red Sea, South Sinai, Luxor). Areas where tribes count more tended to have a high "yes" vote (Wadi Gedid, Marsa Matruh, North Sinai).

Even in Cairo that voted 60% "yes" and the other governorates, the numbers indicate the diversity of the population and it's concerns.  The extremely poor neighborhoods where the MB has a strong presence as well as the very affluent neighborhoods with a strong NDP presence probably leaned towards "yes", but the middle class neighborhoods would have had to be split over the issue, more likely along the lines of security, stability and the need to get back to earning money to support their families.

There is likely a strong feeling that the revolution has gotten what it wanted.  Mubarek, et al is gone, the elections will now be "free" and "fair", what more do the revolutionaries want?  Now it is time for the regular people to get what they need.  Sandmonkey thinks the revolutionaries need to accept that and get on with the political process:

You no longer represent the people. You really don’t, at least when it comes to their concerns. Your concerns and their concerns are not the same anymore. You care about the revolution, & the arrest of NDP figures & getting the country on the right track. They care about economic security, the return of stability and normalcy the fastest way possible. (...)

So, now what? Well, now is the hard part. This is the part where we stop playing revolution, and start playing politics for the sake of the country. This means caring more about perception and public support over righteous and legitimate demands.

The numbers and the map show where the "liberals" have a chance to win seats in the up coming elections.   They also have an opportunity to win more support since only 40% of the eligible population, 18.5 million, voted.  It is difficult to say how many votes or constituents they would gain without a more detailed breakdown of number of registered voters and their specific governorates down to the voting districts. 

The liberals will have to discern what districts might represent the most support for their ideas and concentrate their efforts there.  They have an opportunity to at least be represented.  There are over 222 districts with two seats each in parliament equaling 444.  There are also 64 seats assigned for women separately (2 from each governorate as opposed to the smaller voting districts plus six additional from the urban areas like Cairo and Alexandria that are allowed four women).  That does not mean that these districts and seats will remain after the next election, but it leaves room for the liberals to make room at the table.  Particularly the designated women's seats.

To get that opportunity, liberals will have to act quickly to consolidate their base and get the message out.

Mahmoud Salem has a few ideas on what they need to do.

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