Voting in the first round of Egypt's presidential election has begun today across the country's twenty-seven governorates and will continue tomorrow, with polling-stations open from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM each day. The contest is, in a word, unpredictable.
Background on these elections (electoral process; schedule; candidates; opinion-polling) can be found in Part III (8 March) and Part IV (17 May) of this intermittent series. The purpose of the present diary is to provide the last available opinion-polling, discuss briefly the results of the expat vote (concluded 17 May) and discuss some of the reasons why, in my opinion, this race is so difficult to predict.
Join me over the Itzl, won't you?
Since the publication of Part IV of this series, several additional opinion-polls have been released, the results of which are available below. I have also corrected an oversight and appended a column for "undecided." (n.b.: the Al-Ahram Center seems to be including "undecided, but lean" in their percentages for individual candidates; annoying, but there it is.)
Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies
|28 April-1 May||39.0%||24.0%||17.2%||7.0%||6.7%||10.7%|
|29 April-1 May||11.0%||11.0%||6.0%||2.0%||n/a||42.0%|
If the polling is accurate, Shafiq's star does seem to be rising. While not officially endorsed by SCAF, he is widely viewed as SCAF's candidate and is running a law-and-order campaign in which he lauds both his own military biography and the stability afforded by SCAF over the past fifteen months. Shafiq is a foloul, a remnant of the Mubarak regime, having served in numerous governmental offices including that of Prime Minister for the final eighteen days of the Mubarak presidency. Shafiq's increased support may (repeat: "may") represent the swath of the Egyptian populace referred to as "the silent majority" for whom wistful recollection of the stability of pre-revolution Egypt, embodied by Shafiq, seems a desirable alternative to the uncertainties inherent to any of the other four leading candidates.
EXPATRIATE VOTING RESULTS
Strange as it seems to me, the results of the first round of voting among Egypt's expatriates were released preliminarily on a country-by-country basis almost as soon as they were tallied. Results by country are summarized here (Egypt Independent [22 May]). Accusations of irregularites in Saudi Arabia, where almost half of all Egyptian expats registered to vote reside, have however led the Supreme Presidential Elections Commission (SPEC) to defer the announcement of the final results from the Kingdom (Al-Ahram [22 May]). In other words, we don't yet know the results of the expatriate vote. Abul-Fotouh holds a lead excluding votes from KSA, but Mursi will vault to the head of the pack if the contested results from KSA stand.
In the end, however, the expat vote will be a small fraction of the total vote and there is no reason to believe that it is necessarily predictive of the domestic vote. SPEC anticipates concluding their investigation of the alleged irregularities in time to announce the final results of the expat vote together with the results of the domestic vote.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
As I stated in the introduction, this election is nigh on unpredictable at this point. The high percentages of undecided voters (~30-35%) in the latest available polling certainly complicates any prediction. Identifying the array of interests informing individuals' votes is also difficult. Some are clearly voting "for" candidates and/or ideologies and have likely been among the ranks of the "decided" for some time. Others are voting "against" candidates and institutions, perhaps waiting until the last moment to decide upon an acceptable alternative.
I have remarked on several occasions my assessment that it is unlikely that any candidate will amass the required 50%+1 of the vote to secure the election in the first round and thus avoid triggering a runoff election next month between the two leading candidates. I still believe that, though my confidence is admittedly somewhat shaken and given the rise in Shafiq's support I am far less confident in who those two leading candidates will be.
Interesting times, indeed...