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Analysis: Voting pattern sees little change in Egypt since revolution

An initial comparison of the first phase of the constitution referendum results show the balance tipping towards Morsi in some governorates but unchanged in others

Ekram Ibrahim and Nada El-Kouny , Monday 17 Dec 2012
election
Egyptian men line up outside polling station to cast their votes during a referendum on disputed constitution drafted by Islamist supporters of President Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday (Photo: AP)
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A read into the results of the first stage of Egypt’s referendum on the constitution presents two important observations: The first is that the turnout was significantly lower than the four national votes after Egypt's January 25 Revolution. The four national votes were: the March 19 constitutional referendum (which put a constitution temporarily into effect until a new one was drafted); 2012 parliamentary elections; Shura (upper house) elections and the first round and runoffs of the 2012 presidential elections.

Ten governorates of a total of 27 voted in the first round of the referendum. Those ten governorates accounts for 40 per cent (approximately 20 million of 50) of the registered voters all over Egypt. The second phase - where the remaining 17 governorates or 60 per cent vote on 22 December - will be the real determinant of whether the draft constitution will be taken to the next step.

Many observers saw the turnout as meagre and point to several factors, one of which is the turbulence experienced before the referendum, including the clashes between those who support Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and those who don't.

"Voter-fatigue," was also quoted as a factor, since Egyptians been called to vote in a record three elections in one year.

Moreover, a large boycott movement by Egypt's judges resulted in a literal slow and frustrating voting process for many, as several voters filed complaints against the inefficiency of the process.

A 'Yes' vote was pushed by most Islamists and a 'No' vote by many non-Islamists.

Breakdown of voter turnout:

December 2012 referendum on constitution turnout (phase 1); 33.3 per cent

'Yes'  4,595,311 (56.50 per cent)

'No' 3,536,838 (43.50 per cent)

June 2012 Presidential runoffs turnout; 52 per cent

Morsi : 13, 280,131 (52.74 per cent)

Shafiq:  12, 347,380 (47.26 per cent)

March 2011 SCAF referendum on temporary constitution turnout; 41 per cent

18,537,954 voted out of 45 million eligible voters

'Yes' 16,136,460 (77.2 per cent)

'No'  2,401,494 (22.8 per cent)

Reading more precisely into the governorates results, we also found little changes in voter tendencies.

While comparing the results of the constitution referendum with the runoffs in the elections, we must take in account that the choices were polarising. Voters had to choose between the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, or a strong figure of the ousted president Mubarak's regime, Ahmed Shafiq.

Some that voted for Morsi did not vote in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather against voting for a figure from the previous regime, who they blame for killing protesters during the January 25 Revolution. Some also feared that voting for Shafiq meant entrenching the old regime in power after all the pains of the revolution. Others that voted for Shafiq were avoiding Islamist rule at any cost.

Assiut Governorate:

Assiut surprised many since a train crashed into a bus full of school children, killing 50 children died last month was seen as a major grievance against the currently-ruling Brotherhood regime. The minister of information promptly resigned. Most of the city's residents and the media laid the blame on the government, especially President Mohamed Morsi. Despite the fresh tragedy, counts say a majority voted for the constitutional referendum.    

The counts are as follows: 'Yes' 449,431 (76.08 per cent) and 'No' 141,244 (23.92 per cent). In the presidential elections, Morsi gained 553,975 (61.5 per cent) votes and Shafiq got 346,699 (38.5 per cent) of the vote. Loyalty to the Brotherhood can stand as an explanation for the results.

Sharqiya Governorate:

Sharqiya governorate, President Morsi's home ground, voted for Morsi over Shafiq in the runoff presidential elections.

The 'Yes' votes: 736,929 (65.94 per cent) and 'No' 380,520 (34.16 per cent) in the constitution referendum. Meanwhile, Morsi got 882,978 (45.1 per cent) votes and Shafiq got 1,074,262 (54.9 per cent) votes in the presidential elections.

Cairo Governorate:

Cairo, Egypt's capital, hardly witnessed any changes. It has voted 'Yes' by 43.1 per cent and 'No' 56.9 per cent. Meanwhile, Morsi got 42.3 per cent of votes and Shafiq got 57.7 per cent.

Gharbiya Governorate:

Gharbiya governorate was the only other governorate following Cairo to vote against the constitution. Gharbiya is home to the industrial cities of Mahalla Al-Kubra and Tanta, which have over the past years saw a significant labour movement opposing the Mubarak regime. Moreover, last week, Mahalla also announced its "independence" from Egypt, distancing itself from Morsi's government. Popular unrest in Mahalla has carried over to continue to rile against the new ruling powers. 'Yes' votes stood at 47.87 per cent and 'No' votes stood at 52.13 per cent.  

As the one exception to the rule, however Gharbiya, part of the Nile Delta region, which has generally been influenced by the former ruling National Democratic Party, voted for Shafiq, at 63.35 per cent while those who voted Morsi were 36.65 per cent.   

Alexandria Governorate:

Alexandria city is known as the Salafists' hometown and Islamists' stronghold. The port city on the Mediterranean has also witnessed very minor change in the voting numbers. On Friday, a day prior to the elections, Alexandria also saw violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the draft constitution. Clashes took place after prominent preacher Ahmed El-Mahalawy urged voters to vote 'Yes' in the referendum. The 'Yes' vote was 49.88 per cent while the 'No' vote beat ahead at 52.13 per cent.  

In the first round of the presidential election, Alexandria surprised many by voting for Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi instead of Shafiq or Morsi. In the runoffs however Morsi got 993,164 (58 per cent) votes and Shafiq got 717,460 (42 per cent) votes. Meanwhile in the referendum, there were 'Yes' 665,985 (55.6 per cent) and 'No; 531,221 (44.4 per cent).

The referendum was blamed for widening the gap within society between Islamist Morsi supporters (the majority) and an opposition made up of mostly liberals, leftists, Christians and independents.

Much of the opposition forces and activists had expressed their objection to the large Islamist majority and the resulting unbalanced representation within the constituent assembly tasked with drafting Egypt's new constitution.

This prompted approximately one-third from the original members to withdraw - the majority of whom were non-Islamist. Moreover, the main opposition umbrella group, the National Salvation Front, had pondered whether to boycott or take part in the referendum, finally deciding to vote, but to voice their 'No.' against the draft constitution. 

*This article was amended on 17 December to correct polling results and other figures.

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