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Middle East and Africa

Egyptians: the Demand for Security Wins at the Polls

Al-Sisi won the presidential elections in Egypt by a landslide with 97% of the votes. 47% of those with the right to vote went to the polls, whereas the turnout in 2012 when Morsi won was 52%. How and why did the General win? What will he do now with the Brothers? The expert Tewfik Aclimandos answers these questions.

Interview with Tewfik Aclimandos.



The decision to prolong the duration of the elections can lead to doubts about the transparency of the voting. Were the elections free and fair? Was there fraud?



The decision was particularly stupid but proves that examples of fraud did not take place. A high level of turnout was wanted, at least thirty million voters: an unrealistic goal given the predictable result of the election, which was due to the popularity of the General (in absolute terms and in relation to his opponent). If there had been fraud, if it had been possible to commit electoral fraud, the duration initially envisaged would have been maintained and the result would subsequently have been falsified.



Who voted for al-Sisi and why?



From the indications that we have we can say that everyone voted for him with the exception of the militants of the Brothers and an important part of young people with degrees of the middle classes in the major cities. Al-Sisi is popular above all in the world of the civil service, the lower middle classes and the world of workers. He is a little less popular in the rural world which nonetheless appears to have voted for him, following the mind more than the heart. What is not clear is what the Salafis did because we have contradictory indications. Why al-Sisi was elected is clear: security. Everyone was aware of the fact that if security is not re-established then tourism, the engine of the economy, will not recover. Neither Sabahi nor the Brothers understood this. A part of the population probably voted for al-Sisi for nationalist reasons as well (‘we love the army and we do not want to be given lectures’) or because of hostility to the Brothers who are seen as being responsible for terrorism, and for other reasons.



Have these elections weakened the political project of al-Sisi?



I do not think so. He after all obtained a large majority of the votes, something for that matter that was not expected. One should bear in mind the fact that some of his ‘clients’ wanted to become ‘allies’ and counted for this reason on a narrow majority so as to be able to dictate conditions or at least negotiate. I am thinking naturally enough of the networks of the PND [the party of Mubarak: editor’s note]. He really does not owe anything to any political force. This is not something that is necessarily reassuring, nor is it necessarily troubling. On the contrary: the incompetence of the staff of his campaign (one could say that his result was obtained despite them), and certain false steps during the campaign, allow us to have some doubts – perhaps unfounded ones, we will see – about the professionalism of his team.



Compared to the elections of 2012 Sabahi lost about four million votes. Why?



I voted for Sabahi in 2012 and in 2014. Once again, because of the absence of opinion polls we are reduced to speculations. In 2012 he benefited from the fact that no other candidate was really credible: many voters did not want to know about the two tenors, Morsi and Shafiq. Public opinion was less worried about security than it is today and Sabahi had not reckoned on the breadth of the danger caused by its deterioration. In 2012 a large part of public opinion thought that the problem was the state; today it thinks that the state is the solution. This time we have had a credible candidate, with a reassuring approach to security, whereas Sabahi has problems at the level of credibility (this is wrong but such is the case) and his approach in favour of public freedoms, in favour of the right to demonstrate, which does him honour, worried the voters.



Can one imagine a political project for Egypt that is practicable without a reconciliation with the Muslim Brothers?



That is a very good question. We will see, but I would like to make an observation: it is the Brotherhood that does not want reconciliation. Then the question is a complex one: to ask the Brotherhood to reorganise itself to respect the law, to be transparent, to dismantle its militias, etc., means to ask it to run the risk of committing suicide. To your excellent question I prefer to answer that political Islam is in crisis but will not disappear. The Brothers are an old force and they, too, will not disappear. But can they change? I doubt it, but this change is necessary if reconciliation is to last. Two years ago I would have said that it is impossible to do something with them, or against them. Today I no longer know what is possible and what is not.