The Sabbahi Shift: a.k.a. How Shafiq Almost Won

I am intrigued about the shift in vote shares from round one to round two in the Egyptian presidential election. In my post on round one of the elections, I made some speculative maps about voting coalitions for the second round, assuming “Islamist” Aboul-Fotouh voters would (for the most part) vote for Mursi and “Feloul” Moussa voters would vote for Shafiq. But the big question was what liberal/leftist/revolutionary Hamdeen Sabbahi voters would do. Of course, we will never know on a person-by-person basis, but the now-approved second round election data shows on a governorate level how Shafiq and Mursi improved on their performance from the first round. The result varies considerably between governorates.

On the national level, the first round vote share of these “coalitions” were 43% for Islamists Mursi and Aboul-Fotouh, 35% for Feloul Shafiq and Moussa, and 22% for Sabbahi. The final round vote shares were 52% for Mursi and 48% for Shafiq. So even though Shafiq lost, he picked up 13 points of the Sabbahi share while Mursi only picked up 9 points. Be aware, I am employing this statistic in merely the broadest possible descriptive (non-scientific) sense. I’m sure that many first-round Sabbahi voters stayed at home or made boycott votes, while Shafiq and Mursi drove out large numbers of voters in the second round who did not even vote in the first round, especially considering overall voter turnout increased from 45 to 50% in the second round.

Taking the “Sabbahi shift” as a merely descriptive way of understanding the change between the first and second round results, here’s a map showing the share of the Sabbahi vote the Shafiq camp won in the second round. By share here, I mean the fraction of the overall Sabbahi vote for each governorate — so, for the country as a whole, getting 13% of 22% means Shafiq received 62% of the Sabbahi share. In a few cases, the coalition’s first round vote increased more than Sabbahi’s ENTIRE vote share: for example, in Menoufiya, the Feloul candidates won 58% of the vote in the first round, and Sabbahi won 10%, but then Shafiq received 71% in the final round. I’m calling this (the biggest) Sabbahi shift of 129%, but it almost certainly means a massive influx of new voters. Anybody knows why so many people would want to vote for Shafiq at the last minute? Hmm…

At any rate, in many cases, Shafiq and Mursi split the “Sabbahi shift” evenly (i.e. the 40-60% range on the map. A Mursi map would be the inverse of this Shafiq map).

So what can this map tell us? As one last disclaimer, it’s not telling us what Sabbahi voters actually did. But it is revealing something about the electoral “ecosystem” in each governorate. Based on my fixation on the Sabbahi share, the shift is somewhat exaggerated based on how much Sabbahi originally received. For example, Sabbahi only got 8% in Fayoum in the first round. But in the final round, Mursi received only 2 points more than the 74% he and Aboul-Fotouh received in the first round, while the Feloul improved from 17.5% to 24% from the first to second round, so to my formula, he took 80% of the “Sabbahi swing.”

In Kafr el-Shaykh, where Sabbahi received 63% of the vote, the single largest share of any first round candidate, the difference in the shift was more moderate. The Islamist final round share improved 29 points from 26% to 55% for Mursi, but the Feloul share improved 34 points from a mere 11% to 45% for Shafiq, meaning Shafiq took 53% of this share. This is still more, but much closer to parity.

By the looks of it, Sharqiya is the big upset of the election. While the Islamist vote beat the Feloul vote 46% to 42% there in the first round, Shafiq took 103% of the Sabbahi share to finish with 55% in the final round ahead of Morsi’s 45%.

I believe this mechanism, although I’m calling it the “Sabbahi shift,” is in fact more generally showing the strength of the Mursi and Shafiq electoral machines in the three weeks between the first and second round. Anecdotal reports alleged Shafiq campaign was engaging in aggressive voter turnout tactics in the southern delta, and that’s where he improved his results the most. In Sohag, where Mursi improved more than 100% the total Sabbahi share, voter turnout increased from 27 to 39%, so NONE of those voters actually need have been Sabbahi voters originally, although some probably were.

It’s tempting to consider whether this map maybe shows the difference between “culturally liberal” Sabbahi voters (or at any rate, the political atmosphere in the governorate), who would have voted against the Muslim Brotherhood in fear of conservative new policies, versus “leftist and revolutionary” Sabbahi voters who would have voted for the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent the resurrection of the NDP under a Shafiq presidency. Despite the general strength of Islamists in Upper Egypt, the biggest difference in the shifts were in rural areas, while the cities split much more evenly. I think, therefore, this map is showing rural voting drives rather than real cultural preference. However, given the closeness of the 62%-38% split on average, the Sabbahi voters were very much divided on what to do and may have indeed gone over to Shafiq in some measure, but this map doesn’t necessarily show that trend in a geographical sense. I encourage any comments on my method or hypothesis.


About ericschewe

PhD, History. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.
This entry was posted in Egypt, Elections, Geography and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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