The final election results in Asyut gave a clear lead to Islamist parties for both individual and party list seats in the the electoral districts. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafi Nour party and their candidates defeated other parties and independent candidates, as well as – surprisingly – remnants of the NDP. The contrary was expected: Islamists were expected to see their largest defeat in the country in Asyut, due to its Coptic majority, and the significant presence of former regime remnants. EgyptVotes met a number of election observers and political activists to discuss factors that helped Islamists gain a majority of seats in this governorate's electoral districts.
Islamists use sectarian propaganda
The top three places for party-list seats went to the Freedom and Justice Party, followed by the Nour Party, then the Egyptian Bloc. As for individual seats, all of which will require run-off elections, Islamists are competing with 11 candidates for 8 seats, trailed by former NDP members with 3 candidates, while there is one candidate for the Egyptian Bloc and one independent.
The outcome of the first round of elections held a number of surprises even before the final numbers came in. Human rights activist in the Egyptian Union for Human Rights in Asyut Milad Qatames said, "I didn't expect the Islamists to get all the seats! I was just expecting them to get 40% of the seats, whether individual or party-list, while the Egyptian Bloc would get 30% and the rest of the parties 30%. However, things turned out differently, and they were able to get nearly 60% of the party-list seats and they're competing for 70% of the individual seats."
Qatames attributed the Islamists' lead to their use of sectarian propaganda and their proselytisation, especially in mosques, which led people to believe that not voting for Islamists would be a sin deserving divine punishment.
Islamists the most organised
Meanwhile, Mamdouh Makram, member of the Popular Democratic Movement in Asyut, believes that the current outcome was to be expected, since the Islamists are "the most organised force in Egypt,” especially as progressive and liberal parties, both old and new, gave up ground. "Also, there are rumours that an implicit agreement has been reached between the Security Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Islamists, to the effect that Islamists will get the legislative branch, while the Military Council will get the presidency, as happened in Pakistan.”
Remnants yield ground to the Islamists
While the "deal" between Islamists and the SCAF remains mere speculation, there is no doubt that the "remnants" have lost ground in Asyut, even if the percentage of former NDP members who reached the run-off round for individual seats in the governorate is still the highest.
Qatames attributed the remnants' return to political life to their use of tribal solidarity, blood and marriage ties, as well as social networks, to garner votes, as well as personal services they offered to residents of the electoral districts, which had a decisive impact in helping them get to the run-off elections. However, Qatames predicted that Islamists would defeat the remnants in the run-offs for several reasons, most significantly the Islamists' excellent organisation, and their exploitation of religious sentiment to win votes.
Experts say Islamists are an extension of the Mubarak regime
The Islamists' sweeping victory, especially in governorates in Upper Egypt known for their tribalism and rejection of religious organisations, particularly the MB, has surprised, if not shocked many. Those interested in public affairs see this victory as an indication that Islamists will be the sole force in the next People's Assembly. While most experts and political party representatives agreed that the election results must be respected as long as the process was conducted fairly, reactions toward this outcome differed. Some have sounded the alarm about the Islamist danger, and sought the help of Western forces to protect minorities in Egypt. Some stressed that religious forces are qualified to hold the reins of the country, and to develop and include various swathes of voters.
Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Mansour takes the middle position. Director of the Department of Future Studies at Asyut University, Mansour stated that the first round’s results show a return of the NDP dictatorship in a new garb – that is, the Islamist garb. According to Mansour, the NDP is the reason the Islamists were able to grab all the seats, since the NDP monopolised power for 30 years. During that time, no other parties were present on the scene, and the religious current was persecuted. No sooner did the NDP fall than Islamists emerged in public life and interacted with people, creating sympathy for them in the elections. Mansour also drew a link between the Islamists' sweeping victory and their penetration of villages, where they offer free services to inhabitants, adding we must keep in mind that 61% of Asyut's population lives below the poverty line.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist.