As the two-day run-off to complete the first round of parliamentary elections commenced on Monday, Egypt’s young protesters who have so far performed poorly at the polls have turned introspective and begun to re-think strategy.
At the Zamalek Kawami School in downtown Cairo, volunteers from the youth brigade, braving the morning chill were demonstrating their presence before polls opened. Conspicuous in their green high-visibility jackets, they began to usher in voters as they arrived. Others fielded the media, which had a modest presence in front of the polling station gates.
Despite the Islamists recording a landslide in the first round of polling, some of the volunteers, drawn from the neighbourhood, and not necessary belonging to any organised political group, acknowledged that they had to learn from their mistakes. “We now recognise that we were simply not organised enough. Spontaneity had worked to bring down Hosni Mubarak (Egypt’s former dictator), but that is not enough to win an election,” said Rawiyeh El Gamal, a young bank employee, who is an avid supporter of Egypt’s youthful protesters.
“We need to re-strategise and the youth has to throw up its own leaders that emerge through a democratic process from within,” she observed. Ms. Rawiyeh said that she felt let down by leaders such as elder statesman Mohamed ElBaradei, despite his lofty national and international stature.
On Sunday, in an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. El Baradei had said that Egypt’s young revolutionaries had been “decimated” because they lacked coherence. He stressed that the youth failed to unify and form “one essential critical mass”. Mr. El Baradei added: “The youth feel let down. They don’t feel that any of the revolution’s goals have been achieved.” The High Election Commission announced that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party had won 36.6 percent of vote. The ultra- conservative Al Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, garnered 24.4 percent.
Under a complex system of election, two-thirds of the 498 lower house seats are proportionally distributed among party list. The rest go to individual candidates, who must win more than 50 percent of votes in order to avoid a run-off. Voting is yet to be held over the coming month in 18 of the country's 27 provinces.
However, many analysts are of the view that the grip of the Islamic parties may only strengthen, especially in the third and final round of polling, which will take place in several impoverished areas that are Islamist strongholds. Mr. ElBaradei said that massive swing in favour of the Islamists can be attributed to the Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian rule, which forced people to look for religious alternatives to the non-existent political ones. However, some others like former Muslim Brotherhood heavyweight, Mohamed Habib, now a founder member of the breakaway Nahda Party, said that the Islamist parties had a natural advantage as they headed for the polls.
“Egyptian people are generally devout and many of the parties like the Muslim Brotherhood, are well organised and have worked closely with the people under difficult circumstances,” he observed. Despite the severe setback that they had suffered, some among the Revolution Continues Alliance, a patchy youth conglomeration that is contesting the polls, said that there were some positive features of the results. Some activists pointed out that their coalition had got 335,947 votes and managed to get one seat in West Alexandria.
“We are still waiting for the official lists seat results from the Supreme Electoral Commission as we can’t rely on the internet and the media, though we had our representatives in the vote count,” alliance leader Emad Attaya was quoted as saying by Al Ahram Online.