Agreement between the Brotherhood and Salafis
"There is no doubt that Islamic political forces have brokered a deal," said Ayman Fathy, an office clerk, "This was clear in the Tahta locality where propaganda leaflets were being distributed associating the FJP candidate Mohamed Saad with the Salafi Nour Party candidate Leithy Nagdy . The leaflets encouraged voters to elect Saad and Nagdy as their representatives over the Egyptian Bloc and independent candidates." Fathy believes the political Islamist factions are supporting each other the run-offs to encourage what they see as "the victory of Islam over other forces." Furthermore, since results were announced, the two candidates have held joint campaigning events in the Tahta locality.
The distinctive features of religious fanaticism and extremism appear in the election campaigns of Islamic political forces. The primary vehicle used to repel, intimidate, and tempt is the mosque. In the mosque, a clear message is communicated: voting for non-Islamists will cause the voter to burn in hell, and voting for Islamists will surely lead to heaven, said Hany Ezzat, a resident of this district. Ezzat explained that members of the Religious Legitimacy Council have been witnessed to use the threat of cancelling monthly allowances to force widows and orphans to vote for Islamists.
On the other hand, Ahmed Abdel Aziz, an accountant, sees the Islamists' highly organised campaigning as the primary reason for their success in attracting a larger number of voters than the less organised liberal parties, whether old or new.
Tribal loyalty strongly present
Meanwhile, tribal allegiances and fanaticism, has extended its reach beyond familial circles and bonds to the larger district level. In the 3rd district of Sohag, the Tama locality directly confronts the locality of Tahta, competing against each other over both the professional and worker seats. Residents of each of the districts are partial, each to the candidate or "son" of their locality. Mohamed Fouad, a clerk describes how the four candidates have started to use the expression "son of the locality" to represent tribal loyalties and ensure voters from their locality remain loyal to them. Fouad said political speeches of the candidates of Tama now play on the tribal loyalties, saying, "Instead of going all the way to Tahta to meet your representative to get your voice heard, you now have the opportunity for your candidate to be from right here, from Tama. Vote for the son of Tama..." Similarly, candidates from Tama play on the same tribal theme, while also toying with the voters' Islamic and religious inclinations.
The play on tribal loyalties is not only evident in speeches but appears also in the coalitions formed. Ihab Atef, a teacher, noted that Nour El Din Abdel Razak, the candidate of the Egyptian Bloc, could not escape aligning with the independent Ahmed Hayallah to form a coalition based on locality to confront the Islamic parties. Furthermore, all four candidates have been carefully allying with candidates who lost in the first round, based again on locality, to ensure that they gain their endorsements and voters.
Who will Copts vote for?
The list of candidates will force the Copts to think carefully about their vote in the run-offs. Mikhail Rashed believes that the Coptic votes, whether from Tahta or Tama, will without a doubt go towards the liberal candidates from Tama, Nour El Din Abdel Razak and Ahmed Yehia. He confirms that the benefit of the Coptic minority lies with the more liberal secular candidates than with the religious extremism of the different Islamist factions particularly the more extreme Salafi from participating in the run-off elections.
Islamists expected to add to their victories
Observers find that Islamists are more likely to gain the seats. Sayed Mahrous, a correspondent for Sawt El Balad newspaper, predicts that Islamists will gain both seats, whether running against the Egyptian Bloc, independents, or even others. He attributes this to the Islamists' superior organisation, their acceptance amongst the people, and their broader campaigning strategies.
It is useful to note in numbers, that the third district of Tama and Tahta contains 415,018 eligible voters. The participation rate for the first round was recorded at 59% and the amount of correct votes numbered at 222,931 while the number of invalid votes reached 22,275. Abdel Razak, who is entering the run-off phase for the professional seat, received 48,688 votes, whereas his main competitor, Mohamed Saad, who is also entering run-offs received 48,382 votes. Competing for the worker seats in the run-offs are Leithy Nagdy who received 45,532 votes while his competitor Ahmed Hayallah received 21,853 votes. An overall number of 56 candidates ran for both seats in the first round.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist.