The Delta Blog

Marginalized in Mansoura

I spent the presidential elections in Mansoura last week. It was fairly depressing.  I met with a few people who were once active in the city in terms of opposition groups and protests, most of whom wanted nothing to do with what’s going on now. The name Ramy Essam came up more than once, in reference to a 17-year-old that was sentenced to 25 years in prison just days before the election. It was, in short, all pretty grim and eery juxtaposed with the Busha Kheir danceoff raging outside as we chatted.

I wrote up the experience for EgyptSource, the take away after a lot of conversations more or less this:

The repressive environment that hangs over Mansoura – which is by no means unique to this city alone – makes it unsurprising that younger voters seemed unsupportive of both Sisi and the elections. It is their cohorts, after all, that disproportionally linger in jails and detentions, and much of the city’s remaining activism stems from its university campus. At the same time, highly repressive security measures have proven successful in deflating oppositional spirit. The same individuals that would have gathered around the security directorate a year earlier, or marched from the university to the city’s main square, were most notable during this election cycle for not doing anything at all.

The animating thesis of the whole election experience is perhaps not one about a boycott, or a low turnout, or even a one-sided victory for Sisi. The listlessness of younger voters sitting on the sidelines is a reflection of how a year of highly repressive measures worked. The state may have taken great pains in the last moments to push voter turnout as high as possible, but in the long-run, if the regime has managed to silence most of its opponents and alienate them from the political process entirely, this implies total victory of a whole different magnitude.

 

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The Battle Behind Campus Walls

The CASA program at AUC evidently destroyed my blogging capabilities this past year, so it’s fitting that I open this long neglected space as I enter the last week of classes. I should be back in Mansoura shortly, potentially covering the elections, so hopefully more active posting soon.

For now, I just wrote a piece overviewing student protests on university campuses as the academic year comes to a close. This piece is largely inspired by my time at Mansoura U. and Alexandria U. in 2011, and seeing campuses open up as political spaces for students in unprecedented ways, only to see them recede over the past year. Stories such as students at Cairo U. getting suspended and thrown out of exams for wearing badges in solidarity with their jailed colleagues would have been unthinkable just two years ago. And so on. An excerpt from the piece:

While student protests have been destructive—breaking into offices, burning vehicles, tearing down walls—the violent behavior only partially explains the government’s response. The state considers its universities critical pillars for maintaining social control. Only during the 2011 revolution did the state cede many of these crucial spaces for the first time. The past year has thus been a story about the state contesting, and generally winning back, lost ground.

You can read the rest over at EgyptSource.

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Fighting Lions and Brothers in Mansoura

After spending some time in Mansoura this past week I wrote a dispatch for the great people over at EgyptSource. It’s a task likely above my pay grade, but I tried to capture the confusing feelings the city has for its local Brotherhood, and what chaos post-June 30 has looked like in Mansoura. It begins:

 In the summer of 2011 Sayed al-Essawi, an Egyptian man claiming superhuman strength, briefly made international news when he challenged a lion to a death match. The bout—which al-Essawi described as a means to revive Egyptian tourism and prove that man is stronger than lion—was anticlimactic. With cameras rolling, Essawi shuffled around an oversized cage and, clutching a satellite dish jury-rigged into a shield, taunted a visibly disinterested lion. Several minutes into the “fight,” neither party had thrown a punch. Al-Essawi backed out of the cage and, for reasons not totally clear, declared total victory.

After the stunt, al-Essawi largely disappeared from public view—until recently, when the former lion fighter re-emerged in his hometown of Mansoura, this time wearing the hat of aggressive anti-Brotherhood vigilante. How residents view him and his vigilantism has become a sort of Rorschach test for the city’s complex views toward the Brotherhood, a group that has historically found a strong base of support in the Delta city.

Read the rest over at Egypt Source.

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Into the Delta and Back Online

It’s not the most verdant terrain on the planet, but the contrast from Cairo’s sallowy monochromes gives it a certain something when you first look out – it’s an instant pop.

On the Agricultural Road

On the Agricultural Road

The air tastes light, or, perhaps just normal. There’s a realization that somehow feels novel and disturbing each time I step out of a cramped microbus: “Cairo air really is that bad.” The agricultural road, as seen above, winds through the villages, farms and smaller industrial cities that together comprise this blog’s original intrigue: the Delta!

I made my third trip to Mansoura this past weekend in so many months, and it seemed as apropos a time as any to re-open this blog (dormant since April 2012? Yikes). Since June I’ve nestled into my new home in –were it not inevitable? – Cairo. The days of Mansoura hipsterdom are over. It’s going to take some time to grow into this fish tank.

This blog always suffered from main points, but here’s one: I’ll still be blogging about Mansoura and the Delta whenever possible.

Actual content coming soon. I leave you with this, an overhead of Mansoura, the other city victorious:

Univerity overhead

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The Peculiar Genius of Hazem Abu Ismail

Prefatory note: your negligent blogger has been battling a deep bout of depression over the past week that has made following Egyptian politics an unusually bitter experience. This has, it should be made clear, nothing to do with why the site hasn’t been updated as of late and instead entirely to do with the disqualification of presidential candidate-cum-bearded-genius Hazem Salah Abu Ismail; or as I like to call him, the most entertaining reason to tune into Egyptian politics.

Personal business aside, so much has been written about Ismail that I would normally question featuring him as a topic for this blog. But for all the hoopla surrounding his late March surge to presidential superstardom, very little has actually been said about the magnitude and implications of what this man has just accomplished. In a relatively short period and with almost nothing in the way of formal support, Ismail essentially launched Egypt’s Islamist-Obama 2008 campaign. Put more boldly, Ismail appears to have run the most dynamic and effective presidential campaign the country has ever seen, and there is quite a lot to be taken away from this feat.

At the outset, note that Ismail’s campaign isn’t something new so much as the recognition of his popularity is. This is to say that the recent “surprise” of his campaign’s strength actually says more about the horrific state of Egyptian opinion polls than anything else. In other words, Ismail’s campaign has been less of a spike than a snowball that finally reached a critical mass worth noticing.

The campaign is at first noteworthy because it did what every political junkie dreams of: it took a fringe candidate and made him a viable, mainstream-like contender. Like any great political underdog, Ismail initially did two simple things to get himself noticed: he said controversial things and plastered his face everywhere.

Much has been made of Ismail’s bizarrely incessant postering, which over time became the stuff of viral internet parody, particularly a Facebook page dedicated to photoshopping Ismail’s posters into wonderfully unexpected and hilarious places.

But the presence of the Facebook pages, articles and meta conversation growing out of the postering indeed show that it achieved the intended effect. Recognize that although Ismail was a political candidate in 2000 and 2005 – losing both times, and blaming regime corruption in each case – he never held political office. Nor did Ismail ever hold a very public position anywhere. He was a popular preacher, true, but at best, still relatively parochial compared to his competition. Unlike Aboul Fatouh, he had no storied break with the Brotherhood; unlike El-Shater and Morsi he had no Brotherhood backing; unlike Moussa, Shafiq, and Soleiman, he didn’t have a priori household name recognition tied to previous posts, and unlike ElBaradei he had zero international recognition. In this way, he was mostly just a well spoken bearded contrarian, and before he could win voters over with his message he had to convince people he was someone they should pay attention to.

Thus, even before parliamentary election campaigning had gotten under way this past fall, Abu Ismail posters began popping up in cities across Egypt. In Mansoura, and in October, while the city’s residents were mostly just wondering if the People’s Assembly elections would indeed be kept to schedule, Ismail’s campaign slogan was spray painted liberally on the city’s main streets – though interestingly, his name was kept absent from the message, almost as if to suggest the admonition the paint carried was less political slogan than universal truth.

 

“By sharia we will live dignified.” This was the earlier version of Ismail’s campaign slogan, now simply “We will live dignified.”

The slogan itself is one of Ismail’s most notable accomplishments. Unlike any other presidential contender’s slogans, one could drop this line into conversation and all speakers present would immediately know what and who it was a reference to. Does anyone even know Amr Moussa or Aboul Fatouh’s campaign slogans, outside of perhaps their own supporters? Does anyone remember what ElBaradei’s was?

Beyond the sheer stickiness of the phrase, the message itself is brilliant. That’s because the many demands of the Egyptian people could probably be summarized as a restoration of dignity, a dignity that both alludes to a romantic past as well as to the oppressive actors that have prevented its achievement until present – whether the West, the previous regime, or most recently, the specter of an overbearing Brotherhood-ruled future. In this way, Ismail’s phrase tapped into Egyptian angst the way “Change we can believe in” entranced cult-like Americans in 2008. And yes, that’s where the Obama analogy ends.

In fact, the full meaning of Ismail’s slogan is where most media misses the point of his campaign. Two weeks ago, for instance, the Economist referenced his platform with:

“Belly-dancers would be banished. Foreign tourists could still booze in bikinis, provided they were quarantined from Egyptians. The legal age of marriage would be lowered to puberty, as in the Prophet’s time.”

Not only is it unclear if Ismail would have the authority to do any of this (still no constitution), it’s also just one small piece of a campaign platform that combines seemingly sensible ideas like localizing government to make it more responsive to citizen needs, with off-the-wall stuff like cultivating the Sahara and Sinai in order to become agriculturally self-sufficient in – and this is verbatim – two years time.

But the point here is that when read holistically and not through the cherry picking, “shit that will scare liberals” lens of made-for-cool-journalism stories, Ismail’s campaign is less about a radical that wants to rebuild the Caliphate than a pissed off conservative who wants Egyptians to live on their own terms. We won’t be repressed by an overbearing centralized government; we will grow our own food; we won’t be dependent on the West; we will live in dignity; to hell with Israel. That’s the thrust of the Ismail campaign, and that’s why people love him.

But let’s be clear: Ismail and many of his ideas are in fact Crazy. But he is less crazy in the way that’s played up in the media and more crazy in the way every irrationally self-confident individual who believes he’s the only one who can rule a sovereign nation is. That’s the point.

And it’s this irrational self confidence mode of craziness that has made his campaign both brilliantly entertaining to watch and also unbelievably effective at garnering supporters. Because at the end of the day, if you want to attract large numbers of autonomous individuals behind your cause you have to get them excited, and every other candidate by comparison has pretty much put their supporters to sleep.

******

Probably the most notable thing about Ismail’s success is the lack of formal support it had. The Brotherhood competed directly against him and the Salafist Nour Party as well as other Salafist groups asked him to drop his campaign so as not to split Islamist votes. Liberals and regime sympathizers consider him the Antichrist. So how again to explain his frontrunner status by late March?

As Ahram noted back in February:

“Hazem Salah Abu Ismail doesn’t have a centralised campaign, preferring instead to allow disparate volunteer groups to lobby for him. His campaign ‘supervisor’ is Hani Hafez, a 39-year-old automation engineer who left the Muslim Brotherhood three years ago.”

This is a bit more speculative, but for a constituency that has likely grown tired of the controls placed on Muslim Brotherhood campaigns, Ismail seems to have capitalized on turning pure enthusiasm loose in whatever direction it may go. It’s not clear to what extent local Hazemun (as Ismail supporters have come to be known) coordinate with any central entity, but given Ismail’s lack of concern for the torrent of online content produced in his name, my guess is very little. As an aside, Ismail’s face appears to be the most popular Facebook profile default in Egypt.

As another aside, the online content produced both celebrating and mocking Ismail has been fantastic, and at the least, I’m going to make you watch this video:

And that’s pretty much it: a decentralized campaign with a powerful slogan to match a captivating speaker with hardline views. Several billion posters later, constant online chatter, liberal mocking – likely resulting in greater conservative solidarity with their victimized hero – and Hazem The Super Candidate Abu Ismail is born.

The magnitude of what this grassroots campaign actually accomplished was, I think, put perfectly by David Kirkpatrick in the New York Times when he commented on the U.S. government’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood following their decision to run a presidential candidate. Kirkpatrick writes:

“And so, in a remarkable inversion, American policy makers who once feared a Brotherhood takeover now appear to see the group as an indispensable ally against Egypt’s ultraconservatives, exemplified by Mr. Abu Ismail.”

In other words, one irrationally confident bearded man, some guy named Hani Hafez, and an army of kids with too many posters forced the United States government to support Muslim Brotherhood domination after it had been spending billions of dollars to avoid just that fate 16 months earlier – more or less.

But that was the first week of April. Now of course the campaign appears finished, killed off by the same xenophobia that partially spurred it forward. The irony of the anti-American candidate being disqualified for being too close to America has inspired no shortage of commentary, and has rocketed Ismail’s name beyond the Egyptsphere and into the realm of mainstream American news coverage and Daily Show segment. And unfortunately, Ismail’s cultish supporters’attacks on Barack Obama’s reelection page, though as funny as they were misguided, could do nothing to change the tragicomedy of their hero’s fall.

If nothing else, the wake of Ismail’s campaign throws into relief the failure of any other candidate to capture the imagination of the Egyptian electorate. It provides a decent lesson in the power of charisma over campaign funding, that conservatives can also hype campaigns via social networks, and that idealism and tapping into the Egyptian struggle counts for more than institutional support. The question now is what candidate has the political savvy to replicate the “We will live in dignity” mantra?

In the end, Egypt’s most effective political campaign is reduced to what made it so fun to keep tabs on in the first place: the comedy it engendered.

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Liars

On Sunday night I observed the Mansoura Kazabun campaign’s film showing.

For the uninitiated, the campaign’s title, Kazabun, means “liars.” It’s a reference to the many denials made by military officials regarding army complicity in violent crackdowns of demonstrators. The word “kazabun” appears to have been picked up as the campaign’s mantra after it appeared on the front cover of Tahrir News, lingering by itself in bold, and framing the now infamous photo of a woman in a blue bra being beaten during protests in December.

Over the past month the campaign has taken to the streets in various cities, its signature event a public showing of film clips that weave in and out of interviews with military officials, brutal army violence at demonstrations, badly wounded victims, and grieving family members. There is no standard film shown at the events; organizers pick from various clips of differing lengths posted on the campaign’s YouTube page. In this way, one film showing is often different from the next.

Sunday night’s showing in Mansoura came with context. One day earlier, the governor of Daqahlia (the province for which Mansoura is the capital) issued a statement banning the showing of the film absent his office’s permission. A few days earlier the Cairo arm of the campaign reached new galling heights when it broadcasted its clips directly on the government’s state media building, Maspero. Not wanting to be out bad-assed, the Mansoura activists wheeled their projector out to the governor’s own building and literally set up shop on his steps.

The governor’s ban warned that any projector used for the film display would immediately have its electricity supply cut off. The campaign plugged directly into his building.

Organizers told me they had twice before been attacked by “thugs” during events; they claim these men had been sent by the police, but it’s worth noting that Kazabun participants have become targets elsewhere by citizens who simply disagree with their message.

There were at least two plain-clothed officers in the crowd on Sunday; I actually spoke to one, who, oddly, seemed to have given up on the farce that people didn’t know who he was working for. He approached me to make sure I was there taking photos, as opposed to…I’m still not quite sure. At this point several activists had a good laugh talking to him in front of me and explaining he was with the police, even introducing each of us to each other formally. He didn’t deny his work. It was all a bit weird, but oddly harmonious with the night’s theme: a giant middle finger raised at authority. There were no attacks or attempts by police to stop the event.

***

Some of the film clips are powerful the way something sad that also draws you in is. The other layer to this is watching other people watch the film, which is affecting the way it might be to observe a mother learn her child has been killed.

Forty minutes into the event there were tears. As a pseudo-journalist, I had a strong urge to tape the group of women just beside me who were profusely crying; this was overcome by a stronger urge not to be an asshole. A guy in his early twenties, sobbing even more uncontrollably, was pulled away from the crowd by two friends.

It’s not difficult to see why the governor banned the film, however myopic and ineffective the decision. When not pointing out military contradictions, the clips are profoundly emotive, layering testimony of victims’ families with sad music and macabre imagery. It isn’t just about truth-telling, many of the clips feel engineered to pull tears the way Saving Private Ryan’s final graveyard scene does.

But this is sadness packed with a very different agenda. Immediately after the film was through, where a moved crowd might applaud at having been touched by great art, the film had its intended effect: the crowd began the chant that has become so commonplace it risks soon losing its edge: Yeskut Yeskut Hukm Al Askr (down with military rule).

Maybe this then, is the purpose of the Liars campaign. Not to raise awareness, as the campaign claims, for things that most, if not all, people viewing the film already know, but to infuse life into protests that risk falling flat from exhaustion.

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Anniversary of a Revolution in Mansoura

January 25th in Mansoura, though replete with its own unique set of revolutionary characters, had all the trappings of anti-military protests in Egypt, and in some ways, was a decent portrayal of the year in activism: requisite frustration with military rule, surprisingly optimistic outlooks on the future, vague platitudes, carefully focused demands, clever commentary, and of course, graffiti, all colored the day.

Above, graffiti sprayed on the side of Mansoura’s muhafaza, or governorate administrative building, was part of the city’s participation in “Mad Graffiti Week,” a loosely coordinated but viral campaign – which ultimately went global – promoting random acts of street art to support the completion of Egypt’s revolution. The tag reads “Come out on January 25th because the martyr is watching you.” Whether or not Mansoura residents were affected by this message, they did indeed seem to listen.

Roughly one thousand joined a series of marches around the small – relative to Cairo – Nile Delta city.

“We got rid of Mubarak and they brought us a general!!!” This pithy summary does remarkably well to encapsulate the sentiment of protesters one year after they overthrew their dictator, but it does leave out what is probably Egypt’s most evocative single word, and the one that really seems to get people into the street: “martyrs.”

“The martyrs are the most dignified among us, we have not and will not forget.”

Moreover, martyrs are precisely the reason why the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) attempt, several weeks earlier, to turn the January 25th anniversary into an upbeat celebration, floated like a lead balloon.

“We don’t want a celebration. We want the right of those who have died.”

This point was likely made even clearer by a massive banner rolled out mid-demonstration bearing the name of every known martyr since January 25th of last year.

And just to make the point a bit clearer:

The Egyptian Revolution is often romanticized as a peaceful democratic transition. This banner places something of a dent in that analysis.

“The killers of the martyrs were set free.”

These words, no doubt, capture the sense of frustration on the ground, but factually speaking, are a bit inaccurate. Two weeks earlier, the Mansoura-based trial for police officers accused of killing protesters on January 28th resumed, and was summarily postponed, for the third time.

Simple narratives of demonstrators against the military, however, could never capture the complicated reality of a country that still respects the armed forces for its service throughout Egypt’s modern history, and its soldiers, who, conscripted, are of the same class of citizens protesting in the street. Perhaps the most direct reminder of that would be this:

Above, a banner supports the April 8 Officer Movement, launched after 22 military officers joined protesters in Cairo on April 8, only to be arrested and sentenced to jail terms of one to three years. Over the past week, the imprisoned officers began a hunger strike as part of their continued call for the end of military rule. Various groups called on Head of SCAF Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi to release the officers in honor of the revolution’s one-year anniversary. He apparently refused.

And if there is one man in Mansoura who understands imprisonment:

Leading the march at one point was Hamdi Qanawi, above, who is something of a symbol of Egyptian perseverance. Qanawi has been intermittently protesting against the former regime since the 1980s, has been imprisoned on multiple occasions, was Mansoura’s leading figure for the Kefaya Movement when it began in 2004, and ran for parliament this past month. In the election, Qanawi was badly outmatched by one of the city’s widely-popular Muslim Brotherhood figures, but as seen above, remains active. In this way, Qanawi is something of a microcosm of the Egyptian protest movement itself.

Here, Mansoura’s recently elected member of parliament from the Revolution Continues Coalition, Mohamed Shabana, returns from his first week of work in Cairo to fulfill what –given his coalition’s name – would seem like an obligatory event. Behind Shabana, a sign reads “Bread, Feeedom, Social Justice,” the revolution’s three most perpetual, and ambiguous, demands.

To be fair, other demonstrators chose to be far more precise in what they were still looking for one year on:

In a likely reference to the many state companies privatized before the revolution and sold off to regime cronies at woefully-below market prices, a sign reads “The people want the restoration of looted companies.” With policymaking precision, it continues “The people want a minimum wage of 1500 Egyptian Pounds.”

And lest we forget one of the most common ongoing debates:

“A president is required. No constitution under military rule.” And when the crowd swelled, this clever protester showed why his sign was particularly effective:

He invariably stood above the crowd.

Above,”Join us” this sign says, while crossing out a couch – a clear reference to the much debated and joked about hezb al-kanaba, or party of the couch, a label applied to those who would rather sit inside on their sofa than take part in the revolution. There were also more stern warnings directed at couch potatoes:

“Come down and fight the oppression before it reaches your front yard.”

I will not insult you with a caption, these brilliant cartoons speak for themselves.

As is often the case, graffiti continued to play a role in the expression of the protests.

Here a new piece of graffiti reading “state of the revolutionaries” is sprayed while demonstrators continue their chants just beyond the wall.

Finally, another piece of graffiti sprayed in the days before the demonstration reads “our revolution is peaceful.” And In Mansoura on January 25th, with police and army having seemingly evacuated the streets, this indeed was the case.

This article originally appeared on Jadaliyya.com

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A Possible NDP/FJP Runoff, So Who Do You Hate Less, Liberals?

My brief roundup of elections in Mansoura, and why the liberal Revolution Continues Alliance is uniquely strong relative to elsewhere in Egypt is up on Al-Masry Al-Youm. Nothing particularly new or unexpected in the article, though I have gotten some confirmation from people since then that the farmer/worker individual seat race is indeed quite close between former NDP-member Wahid Fouda and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Tariq Qutb. It seems like a runoff will be underway.

This race is going to be quite interesting, as long as people actually vote, in terms of which way alliances will swing. Recently in a conversation with Hamdi Qnawi, a member of Kefaya, an anti-regime stalwart, and the professional seat candidate supported by the Revolutoin Continues, I got the impression that it wasn’t obvious who he would choose in this race. In fact, he declined to tell me who he would vote for, but only implied that it wasn’t easy, because he was left with “Islamists on the one hand, and falul on the other.”

To make the point, here is a guy who has been thrown in jail mutiple times at the hands of the former regime, who has been protesting against them in various ways since the 1980s, and who has been pushing for the revolution since before some of the revolutionaries were born, and he is still unsure whether he could choose an Islamist over one of the guys who used to beat and arrest him.

There’s something to say here about how incredibly disheartened some liberals must be with how the races have gone thus far, and the level of disgust some must have for how well the Islamist parties have done, if that much wasn’t already incredibly obvious.

Below is an old newspaper clip of Hamdi Qnawi protesting against the treatment of journalists, back when doing so was, to make an understatement, a bit less popular. Behind makeshift bars, he holds up a sign saying “The home of the journalists.”

 

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A Series of Anti-SCAF Campaigns as Elections Finally Reach Mansoura

The below video, whether you completely agree with it or not, does a brilliant job of weaving together a  hyper brief history of the military council’s (SCAF) various abuses since taking power last February.

And around Mansoura this is the poster that has been plastered over some of the campaign flyers as citizens go to vote:

The white words on the top right read “This is not a picture of the Palestinian occupation, but rather of an Egyptian child on the soil of Egypt.” The text on the left is “Would you accept this for your sister?! Would you accept this for yourself?!” all accompanied by photos of the recent violence outside the parliament in Cairo.

The above poster campaign, along with anti-SCAF graffiti, along with periodic public showings of military abuse has all been building over the past week. Another campaign, simply called “liars” has also made its appearance in the city over the past few days, accompanied by its own posters. Will this energy manifest itself into something more serious on January 25? That’s what most people here have been talking about. Personally, I find it unlikely, though certainly a lot of people will head to the square. But this country always surprises me.

As I  hurriedly write there are people voting outside. Back to elections.

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Some Election Day Notes, Predictions, and Speculation From Mansoura

Mansoura residents will be responsible for ten seats in the upcoming parliament (8 list, 2 individual). Here’s a few interesting things about their election, which begins today:

The Sure Shot: It doesn’t seem likely that anyone can come close to matching Dr. Yousry Hany, of the Freedom and Justice Party, for the individual professional seat. Calling Hany anything but an honorable and respectable figure in these parts seems to be forbidden, even for liberals. Moreover, Hany got his seat fraudulently taken by the NDP in past elections, so there’s a healthy majority here who believe it’s rightfully his this time around. I’d be surprised to even see a runoff for this seat.

Women in the Next Parliament: One of the most disheartening developments thus far is the abysmal number of women who have taken seats in round one and two of the election. This troubling phenomenon is largely explained by the fact that most party lists, when required to place one woman on their list, did so by posting them dead last, ensuring that their female candidate was never actually a meaningful contender. Interestingly enough, Mansoura is pretty much guaranteed to find itself with at least one female MP – and it’s thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood – who has placed Saham Gamal as the number two candidate on their list. If the Revolution Continues Alliance, in a long shot, gets three seats, so too will Dr. Noha Sharqawi, the higher ranked of two female candidates on their list.

The lesson going forward, in my view at least, appears to be that at the point where you are making female requirements to ensure that a reasonable number of women have a chance to enter parliament, ensure that parties can’t simply circumvent the law by running one last on the list. If anything, this makes the plight of women worse, as parties can claim they met their obligations and supported female candidates when, for all intents and purposes, they never actually did. This election law should be amended.

The Closest Race: If there was such a thing as a faluul race in Mansoura, it would be in the individual labor seat. Two of the three strongest candidates here are former NDP members. One, Waheed Fouda, took the seat in 2010, and his brother Mamduh won the seat nearly every election cycle before that dating back to the early 1970s. Interestingly, one of Fouda’s competitors is another NDP member, Mohamed Shabara, who has switched his alliances to the Salafist Nour Party. Both men will be competing with the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Tariq Qutb, who, not nearly as popular as Yousry Hany, still has the FJP advantage.

The question in this race is how many Islamist votes Shabara of Nour can steal from the FJP’s Qutb, which would then strengthen Waheed Fouda’s chances. If Shabara has an unusually strong showing, it could mean Waheed Fouda takes the seat outright. What’s more likely however, is a runoff between Fouda, the former NDP seat holder, and Qutb of the FJP. At this point, and with Shabara no longer splitting his votes, it seems Qutb would have the upper hand. It’s anything but given, though, as Fouda is an unusually popular faluul candidate who seems to take credit for building the city into the urbanized center (relative to other Nile Delta locales) it is today – and many people stand with him on this point.

The Party Lists: Of the eight seats up for grabs it’s clear that the Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP will garner the most. The remaining seats will likely be split between the Salafist Nour Party and the Revolution Continues Alliance, who have displaced the largely non-existent Egyptian Bloc for liberal votes in this district.

In fact, Mansoura might end up the place where the Revolution Continues does its best relative to its painfully weak earlier results, largely in part due to a combination of the Egyptian Bloc absence and its lists’ endorsement by the city’s most prominent local figure, Mohamed Ghoneim, a world renowned surgeon. Sadly, all that equates to maybe two of eight seats. In some ways, this speaks to what “liberal success” realistically looks like in post- revolution Egypt.

And Because Everyone Likes Picks: Just for fun, here’s how I think this district – the one I openly acknowledge you all never cared to know so much about – will end up looking like:

Individual (2 seats): Professional: Yousry Hany (FJP); Labor: Tareq Qatb (FJP)

Party Lists (8 seats): FJP: 4 seats; Nour: 2 seats; Revolution Continues: 2 seats

 

 

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