"I did in fact strive to form an electoral alliance with my colleague Amer Abdel Rahim who is the Salafi candidate for the workers' seat but he did not want to cooperate," said Amir Lamey Al-Kommoss, the independent professionals' seat candidate for Asyut's fourth electoral district, summarised his efforts over the days preceding the run-offs. He thinks Abdel Rahim's refusal to cooperate is due to his fear of losing the Islamist votes due to an alliance with a Coptic candidate.
Salafis are the decisive factor in the battle
Salafis are the most critical element in the fourth electoral district controlled by overlapping loyalties, be they tribal, political, or religious. They enjoy widespread popularity in the area of Al-Ghanayem, Al-Komoss' place of birth. Consequently, the Salafis' refusal to support Lamey will cost him broad segments of his district's population. The Salafi candidate, Abdel Rahim happens to come from Abu Al-Teeg which is the most populated area, whereas the battle for the professionals' seat has boiled down to two candidates from Sadafa and Al-Ghanayem, leaving votes for the professionals' seat in Abu Al-Teeg up for grabs. According to observers, an alliance between Abdel Rahim and Al-Komoss would have shifted a decent block of votes to the Coptic candidate's side.
Meanwhile, representatives of Salafi currents said they would forgo the Salafi-Brotherhood rivalry witnessed in most of the other governorates. They would support the Muslim candidate regardless of his political or tribal affiliations. Hence, the support went to Hassan Abdul Al, the Freedom and Justice Party professional's seat candidate.
The lesser of two evils
Despite sectarian polarisation that dominated elections, tribal affiliations, usually viewed as evidence of the "backwardness" of the political scene in Upper Egypt, might actually seem like the lesser of two evils. A Muslim minority in Al-Ghanayem announced that it prefers their local candidate Al-Kommoss over his rival from the Muslim Brotherhood. Their justification was that the area needed a lot of services which would be difficult for a representative who was not local to fulfil. Thus, despite religious affiliations, they found it in their best interest to stick together and vote for locals regardless of their religion.
Choices boiling down to two "evils", one being less evil than the other, was also the way the Copts of the district described their situation. Absent any formal alliances, it seems that most of the Coptic votes will go to the Muslim Brotherhood's workers' candidate, in addition to Amir Lamey, the sect's candidate. According to Sami Fahmy Zaki, who owns a jewelry store in the city of Sadafa, Freedom and Justice candidates, are psychologically closer to the Copts than the Salafis, because they are considered to be more moderate.