People in north Sinai breathed a sigh of relief upon sealing the ballot boxes and closing the polling station doors at 7pm on the second day of voting (Wednesday December 3rd) without the occurrence of any of the violence which accompanied all past elections. With the widespread availability of weapons, many were betting on a more violent round of elections. However, they were proven wrong, with this round of elections turning out to be the most peaceful of all. As the election process concluded, anticipation of the outcome reached its peak.
Locals marched and vehicle caravans set out from Sheikh Zuwaid, Rafah, and Bir Al-Abd to accompany the voting boxes, together with official security by the military and the police, as they made their way on a slow, night journey to reach al-Arish stadium. In front of the entrance to the stadium street, they were met by a large security cordon which sealed the street and prevented vehicles and pedestrians from entering the street. They opened a gate to let the vehicle carrying the voting boxes in. No other vehicles were allowed to enter. In their traditional black uniform, riot police formed a security cordon while army units remained by the stadium gates.
"O Judge in the hall, beware of the Day of Judgment"
Not far from the security cordon, between two buildings opposite the stadium, the Muslim Brotherhood pitched a tent where they would spend the night of the vote count. They gathered one another until they formed a large group. At exactly 9pm, after news reached the Muslim Brotherhood that the tallying had begun, people started hearing their chants. These were their usual slogans such as "Neither Eastern nor Western...Islamic all the way" and "Islam is the solution." However, a newer chant was also heard: "O Judge in the hall, beware of the Day of Judgment." Time went by slowly and everyone tried to make use of a representative, friend, or acquaintance inside the stadium -- where the vote count stations were -- to find out what was happening, or get an update on the latest indicators.
The tallying began at 9pm before the arrival of central Sinai's ballot boxes, which were said to be arriving on the following morning. Word was that a military helicopter would bring the boxes in due to the long distance the boxes would have to travel. However, central Sinai votes were so few that no one expected them to have any noticeable impact on the results. Indications of the results began leaking out in the morning. At 11:15am central Sinai ballot boxes arrived in a caravan of vehicles guarded by the army and not a helicopter as previously rumored.
Important indicators: 5.79% of the votes invalid
Although people tend to follow final results the most, there are other indicators which are extremely important. Of these, perhaps the most important are voter turnout and the rate of participation out of the total number of eligible voters in north Sinai in general, as well as each city separately. These indicators were as follows: In Rafah, the number of voters was 11,144, with a 36% participation rate. In Sheikh Zuwaid, the number of voters was 10,872, with a 34% participation rate. Areesh had 54343 voters with a 63% participation rate whereas Bir Al-Abd attained the highest participation rate at 74.9%, with 36,821 votes. Contrary to statements by media outlets, central Sinai had the lowest participation rates with 868 voters and a 29% participation rate in Nakhl and 2,300 voters and a 30% participation rate in Hassanah. Overall participation reached 56%. It is also worth mentioning that the number of invalid votes reached 6,809 votes out of a total of 117,598 votes coming in at 5.79%. The number of eligible voters was 204,440.
Official results: seats for the Islamists and thorns for the tribe
At approximately 4:30pm on Thursday December 5th, after the delayed arrival of central Sinai's ballot boxes postponed the results, Judge Mohamed Mustafa, chairman of the main vote counting committee in north Sinai, announced the official results to journalists and the media. The results did not differ much from what was reported by leaks that came out before the announcement. The results in order of significance and from highest to lowest number of votes were as follows: With respect to the party-list vote, the Freedom and Justice Party won 39,017 votes in the governorate and 298 votes abroad. The Nour Party won 29,572 votes in the governorate and 51 votes abroad. The Reform and Development Party won 10,319 votes in the governorate and no votes abroad. Finally, the Wasat Party won 7,896 votes in the governorate and 17 votes abroad, while the Wafd Party won 6,682 votes and 7 votes abroad. With this, the Freedom and Justice Party won two out of the four list seats in the governorate for Dr. Suleiman Saleh of Bir Al-Abd and Khaled Harakah of al-Arish. The Nour Party, on the other hand, won one seat for Mohsen Abdul Aziz of Sheikh Zuwaid while the Reform and Development Party won one seat for its candidate from Bir Al-Abd.
As for the two individual seats, run-offs will take place between four candidates. The candidates are Abdul Rahman Al-Shorbegy (FJP - professional), Samy Al-Kashif (Nour - worker), Yahya Al-Ghoul (Egyptian Bloc - worker), and Ali Suleiman (independent - worker).
Casting a preliminary glance at the results, the first impression is that political Islam has won most of the seats while the "tribalism" that many people were betting on reaped nothing but thorns. The results, no doubt, demand closer inspection and investigation of their causes. The election scene here in north Sinai ended with Islamists' holding celebratory processions in al-Arish and Bir Al-Abd, their two strongholds. Meanwhile in Sheikh Zuwaid and Rafah – which are tribal strongholds -- there was just silence and a few questions floating around, trying to make sense of the new reality.
*Uncredited pictures provided by journalist