Upper Egypt Presidential Election Maps Part I: Al-Fayoum, Bani Suef, Al-Minya

Here’s the first of three installments of my markaz-and-qism presidential elections result map for Upper Egypt. It will be easier to serve the map up in pieces because the Nile Valley south of Cairo is elongated and an awkward shape, and it will save my groaning four-year-old computer from rendering too-large image files. It almost quit me over the Delta map. The numbers refer to district names and full statistics on my updated spreadsheet.

As you can see, El-Fayoum governorate was to Mursi what El-Menoufiya was to Shafiq, his highest unbroken concentration of pure support. The governorate average vote for Mursi was 78%, second only 80% of the much smaller volume he won in Matrouh governorate. (By comparison, Shafiq won 71% overall in El-Menoufiya). Importantly, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to boost voter turnout by 25% in Fayoum from the first round. Unlike El-Menoufiya, which was tightly wound into the patronage system of the old regime, Fayoum is an impoverished and neglected backwater, despite its relative proximity to Cairo, that has trouble getting enough water for its crops and suffers environmental threats from callous military industrial investment. The area has so long been a center of Islamist activity, that there are many interesting intellectual divides in the movement, for example, between the Muslim Brotherhood and various Salafi groups. But they all came out for one candidate on election day.

“Middle Egypt,” a colloquial concept covering Bani Suef through Asyut and sometimes Sohag, was generally Mursi’s citadel, a longtime center of Islamist social and political organization. As a result of the strong security measures taken against a small minority of violent radical Islamist groups in the 1980s and 1990s, the region has been cut off from the lucrative tourism trade its neighbors Luxor and Aswan to the south enjoy, further alienating it from the old regime. However, it is obvious that Mursi’s sheer dominance was restricted to rural areas: the governorate capitals of Bani Suef and El-Minya only voted 48% and 51% for Mursi respectively. By the middle of El-Minya, even the rural areas voted in the 60-65% range. This trend continues farther south, especially since Christian populations are larger in Sohag, Qena, Luxor and Aswan.

Short of any grand theory about these results, I decided to post some links about the campaign and vote in the areas above:

Mursi held some big campaign events in Middle Egypt. Here’s a Muslim Brotherhood press release describing one from May 16, with plenty of football heroes in attendance.

Young Mursi supporters ransacked the Shafiq campaign office in Fayoum between the first and second rounds.

The BBC interviewed voters in El-Fayoum.

“In Minya, Diesel Queues are Longer than Election Queues”, “Minya Hopes Vote Will End its Decay” – Egypt Independent.

Advertisements
Posted in Egypt, Elections, Geography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The “Genuine History” of Egypt in the Second World War (Part III)

The Egyptian Military Museum in the Citadel (covered in part II) presents a spacial metaphor for the status of various episodes in the Mubarak regime’s official historical narrative. It was designed, in Muhammad ʿAli’s palace, to rehabilitate the history of the Muhammad ʿAli dynasty. The period from 1798, Napoleon’s invasion, to 1882, the British occupation, easily occupies 70% of the museum’s floor space. Wars during the British occupation are stuffed into a few small consecutive rooms after this, and then the path opens out onto a large hall for the 1952 military coup, an even larger hall for the 1956 Suez Crisis, culminating in the upstairs ballroom that tells the story of the October 1973 triumph against Israel. Along the way, there is an exhibit for the 1967 war, an Egyptian defeat, but it is cordoned off and shrouded in gloom. There is also a door with the sign “1948 Palestine War” on it — shut firmly and locked.

You will recall from part I that Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser consented to build a museum at El-Alamein in 1965, but didn’t bother showing up to its inauguration or instructing Al-Ahram, the Arabic language newspaper of record, to report a word about the event. But Mubarak reversed this policy, renovating the museum in 1992 with an all-new hall to celebrate the Egyptian role in the war. Kim Il Sung’s encouragement probably resulted in the overall size of the North Korean-aided monument and museum building spree the regime undertook in the early 90s, but the intellectual impetus within these new war museums was wholly Egyptian. Compare the full-page article about the re-opening of the El-Alamein Museum in Al-Ahram on the 50th anniversary of the first day of the Second Battle of El-Alamein, (October 23, 1942), to the miniscule column in the Egyptian Gazette from 1965 from part I:

The headline reads “The Battle of El-Alamein in a Historical Document,” and the boxed taglines read “For the first time, the documents confirm the Egyptian role in the War (sic) of El-Alamein,” and “What did Sir Bernard Paget say to King Farouk about the Egyptian role in the war?” The decision to celebrate the Egyptian role in a British/Allied victory was undoubtedly a political one: so undesirable to mention in the non-aligned Nasser days, it became a sign of prestige in the Mubarak era of neoliberal globalization and realignment with the west. But the Egyptian authorities also needed to defend the academic authenticity of this new course. They have somewhat oddly decided to emphasize a 1945 letter from a minor military commander, General Sir Bernard Paget, thanking King Farouk for Egyptian help in the war, as a great new discovery. But this letter had been published in a book available in the museum’s library and elsewhere for years. Moreover, Winston Churchill on a few occasions made similar statements of gratitude to the Egyptians on the floor of Parliament (however much good it did the Egyptians), so why did they choose such an obscure exchange? I think it reflects the tendency of Egyptian historians, even those working for the state, to hunt down and promote new documents or “secrets” as containing more truth than standard narratives. While historians everywhere are guilty of this sin, the extreme restrictions the state has put on access to its historical archives since 1952 has resulted in much 20th century Egyptian historiography relying on memoirs and newspaper accounts, and an according stress on secrets and rumors. The museum does have some Egyptian army documents on display obtained from the archives that show its cooperation with the British, but mostly everything in the exhibit is published information — particularly from the period 1942-1947 when proudly demonstrating Egyptian support of World War II was official policy.

The renovation contractors added a room on the side of the building and knocked a hole through the wall of the existing Italian Hall for access to the Egypt Hall. It also necessitated signs leading the visitor in the correct direction. There’s the dummy from the newspaper article. Over all of the high windows in the room are bright nylon banners bearing examples of the assistance the Egyptians offered the Allied army. The one visible reads “Cultivated Corn [i.e. grain, actually wheat] Instead of Cotton our (White Gold).”  The subtle resentment on this matter has endured for 70 years. The Egyptian state did not willingly change its agricultural policies, but was forced to do so to feed its urban population because the German u-boat war on shipping ended the external trade that fueled the liberal Egyptian economy. It could not export as much cotton as before, and some years it could not import any wheat — or fertilizer.

This remarkable panel greets visitors at the beginning of the Egypt Hall. It epitomizes the political priorities in Egypt’s new historical narrative I described above. The translation strangely implies something external is demanding the museum of Mubarak. My translation: “Directive: It is necessary to record history truthfully by highlighting the role of Egypt in the Second World War.” The implication is that to date, the role of Egypt in the war has been hidden or neglected in the narrative and that for a “true history,” Egypt’s role must be made more prominent. The executor of this task: Al-Musheer himself, then the recently appointed Minister of Defense, Muhammad Tantawi, who lasted in his job 20 years until the 2011 revolution made him the nominal head of state as Chairman of SCAF. Tantawi was delivered a speech about this new direction in Egyptian history at the museum’s 1992 re-dedication ceremony. Finally, a sign of just how far Egyptian postcolonial resentment has faded in official symbolism: those are the pre-1952 monarchy-era Egyptian flags pasted side by side with the current Egyptian flags. It is the perfect complement to the overall project of realigning the state with the diplomatic, cultural and economic policies of the so-called liberal era.

The Arabic here is “Egypt’s Commanders (plural) in the War,” but the size of the image of King Farouk implies that the exhibit planners consider him the most important leader, as constitutional “commander-in-chief.” Farouk’s role in the war, and in the political history of Egypt itself, was ambiguous and has been the subject of plenty of controversy. He succeeded his father to the throne of Egypt at age 17 in 1936. The enemies of the Wafd party exploited his youth and popularity to gain political power in the first five years of his reign. The extensive powers given the king in the 1923 constitution, to appoint and dismiss ministers and dissolve parliament at will, were an important source of instability in this era. These factors emboldened Farouk to make nationalist and, privately, even pro-Axis statements at the beginning of the war. Because of his attitude and general government mismanagement owing to political infighting, the British stormed ʿAbdin palace with tanks and delivered Farouk an ultimatum on February 4, 1942 either to appoint Wafd leader Mustafa El-Nahhas prime minister or to abdicate. The young man obeyed, and the event has entered political legend as one that eventually destroyed both his and the Wafd’s legitimacy. This visible embrace of Farouk in a state museum would never have been allowed under ʿAbdel Nasser.

While Egypt remained officially neutral, the Egyptian military offered a host of services to the Allies that belie official passivity. Much of these activities naturally related to civil defense of Egyptians, like manning anti-aircraft batteries at all major cities and in the Suez Canal zone, providing naval surveillance at ports, etc. The Egyptian Air Force did run sorties over the Red Sea, and then provided relief pilots on convoys to deliver planes from rear areas to Italy in 1943. I like the background art here showing spotlights over the Muhammad ʿAli mosque at the Citadel, natural high ground where the civil defense did set up its AA guns.

Leave it to the North Korean creative team to paint a propaganda centerpiece for the room that takes liberties with “genuine history.” Despite all of the useful things Egypt did for the Allies, manning field artillery during the Battle of El-Alamein was not one of them. I suppose the painters used the pictures of the anti-aircraft guns above as reference and mentally plopped the Egyptians into the midst of the battle. It appears the creative team finished this painting just eight days before the re-dedication ceremony. Talk about just-in-time supply chain management!

I believe the contribution of Egypt to the British in the war was quite significant — but the bulk of it happened in places like the workshop in the image above, not on the battlefield. (The museum does display about 20 great original prints of Egyptians at work that I had never seen before).  At its peak in 1942-44, the Allied military bases in Egypt employed 250,000 Egyptian civilians as clerks and skilled and unskilled laborers, more than the total industrial workforce in Egypt at that time. Beyond this, Egyptian army engineers built barracks, warehouses, piers and gun emplacements for the Allies, and private contractors indirectly involved uncounted thousands more workers in the military economy. In withdrawing promises of treaty renegotiation in the late 40s, British politicians complained that Egypt hadn’t declared war when the Italians crossed its borders in 1940. But Egypt’s productive impact helped far beyond its own borders, even as far as the shores of Normandy — Misr Spinning and Weaving in Mahalla al-Kubra produced half a million yards per month of light and strong long-staple cotton fabric for Allied parachutes in 1943 and 1944. (These were for supply drops; the RAF preferred silk and nylon for paratroopers). Dominated by tactics and the speeches of Great Men, military history as a genre is usually not very good at including these more obscure logistical elements in the historical narrative. Behind Egypt’s ostensible neutrality, the trends and activities above had a crucial impact on the role of the Egyptian state in society and in the economy for decades to come. But that’s for another post…

As for the rest of the museum, it contains a decently informational and colorful, if chaotic version of events, perhaps because of the Egyptian authorities’ enthusiasm to display any texts or artifacts sent to it by participants of a dozen nationalities. The British room in particular has been given over to sophisticated-looking descriptive panels obviously produced somewhere like the Imperial War Museum. But gladly, some Egyptian humor seeps in to the displays in the corny human mannequins, like this British pilot enjoying a mug of beer between sorties against the enemy.

Posted in Egypt, Military, Second World War | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dear Leader, Could We Have A New Military Museum? (Part II)

The El-Alamein Military Museum was built in 1965 to cater to visiting veterans and their families. Both the winners (British) and losers (Italian and German) received equal exhibit space, and as a neutral caretakers of the battleground, the Egyptian authorities kept their judgements over motives to a minimum and proffered equally neutral platitudes of valor for all. At no point did the then non-aligned Socialist Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser regime ever consider the battle or World War II more generally as having anything to do with Egypt. Its military had been kept on sentry duty in the delta and major cities, and all wartime British promises of treaty renegotiation over the Suez canal occupation had been betrayed by 1947.

Collective memory — and more concretely, the state’s presentation of history — always reflects the events of the past through the political and social lenses of the present. What is authentic to a certain public, or what the state will propose as authentic, changes over time. From 1952 to 1967, as Yoav Di-Capua describes in his excellent Gatekeepers of the Arab Past: Historians and History Writing in Twentieth Century Egypt, the modernist development-oriented post-colonial regime downplayed the events of the Muhammad ʿAli dynasty and British occupation, instead creating ritual performances for its reforms designed to make Egyptian society feel it was making history in the present.

With the failure of the modernist socialist project, and of the Egyptian military in the 1967 war, the state realigned itself with the capitalist world in the 1970s under Anwar El-Sadat and began to look for a new historical narrative to correspond to this political reality. The mixed success of the October 1973 war at winning back Egyptian control of a patch of Sinai from Israeli occupation was the seed from which a garden of new rituals and symbols bloomed. The date of the canal crossing, October 6, became a national holiday, and it has been used to name a major satellite city, a central bridge in Cairo and in many other places besides.

Larger monuments with specific messages — say, war museums — take time and initiative. Sadat’s term in office was filled with the Israeli peace negotiations and an abortive political liberalization. Such projects were left to his successor, Hosni Mubarak. Luckily for Mubarak, one of the great military museum builders of the late 20th century was looking for friends by the late 1980s.

This sign is posted on a wall outside the museum, built in Muhammad ʿAli Pasha’s enormous palace in the Citadel, in English and Korean but not Arabic. What it doesn’t say is that the North Koreans also built or renovated every military museum in the country in this period, including the 1973 War Panorama in Heliopolis, the 1973 War Museum in Port Said, and the El-Alamein War Museum (on which more anon).

The timing of the construction of these museums is not hard to understand. Egypt had just emerged from ten years of estrangement with the Arab world. The Arab League, which it once dominated, expelled it for signing a unilateral peace agreement with Israel in 1979, and Iraq ascended to a more dominant role in pan-Arab affairs. But Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulted in the angry turn of the Gulf Arab states against him. Egypt’s eager participation in the US coalition — in which the US allowed Egyptian troops to be the first across the Saudi border to liberate Kuwait — heralded its return to the Arab League. The time was right for a triumphant declaration of a global vision of Egyptian military history that rehabilitated Muhammad ʿAli as the founder of the modern Egyptian nation, with strong Arab connections. Moreover, the impending collapse of the Soviet Union and international Communism meant North Korea was looking for any friends it could find. The Christian Science Monitor has a decent roundup of Egyptian-North Korean relations in the Mubarak era.

I can’t help laughing at the use of “creative team” in the translation on the plaque at the Citadel, as if the North Korean army were an up-and-coming Madison Ave. advertising firm. However much the Egyptians decided they needed or wanted the help of the North Koreans to make these new museums, the overall result was an absurd intrusion of socialist realism onto good old neoliberal chauvinism. The effect is particularly inappropriate for Egypt, considering the Egyptian public’s unruly, humorous attitude towards its political leadership (even if there has always been a strong undercurrent of respect for the stability that leadership brought, if the Shafiq vote is any indication).

I take as an example the genre set piece, “Adoration of the Leader”:

This is the mural at the entrance of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang. A young Kim Il Sung, with a modest single medal, leads his army and proletariat forward into a bright future after the country’s independence with the armistice in 1953. Of course, the children, the symbols of that future, are just at hand. Keep an eye on those pastel balloons.

Apparently Kim Il Sung had made contacts with the Syrians as well in this period. This image of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad is at the entrance of the Syrian October 1973 (Tishreen) War memorial. An orgy of balloons, the kids and the pigeons all indicate this painting was in the same workshop at the same time as the Egyptian one below. But the Syrians got a groovy 3-D effect with the floor mosaic in the painting coming right down some steps and into the room.

Here’s the Egyptian version. Sitting at the center of the huge foyer entrance to Muhammad ʿAli’s palace, it is the first large image one sees entering the museum. The legend at the bottom reads “Egypt, The Honour, Genuineness and History.” Slightly more austere, it actually looks like it could be a real military parade. Mubarak is marching in a line as equals with his military commanders, not waving, and the kids are off to the side. Having visited Syria, I always remarked that Mubarak never built himself up as much of a charismatic leader as the Assads did. There are still plenty of balloons. But wait! Something odd is going on with that flag…

That’s right, the day we visited the museum in mid-August last year (2011) the consensus of the museum staff was to put the Egyptian flag normally standing to the side of the painting over the face and body of Mubarak at the center of the painting. This inversion of the original intent of the image produces a surreal/dadaist effect — Ceci n’est pas un president. Unfortunately for whoever thought to do that, the building is a temple to Mubarak, and in order to cover his face everywhere in it, one would need to buy up every Egyptian flag currently on sale in Tahrir Square.

The detail in rest of the painting is a fascinating window into the imagination of the Egyptian “technical advisers” to the North Korean creative team. It is a veritable Where’s Waldo of stereotypes of Egyptian society. We’ve got some lower class rural women wearing colorful outfits and authentic, pre-Hijab headscarves. There’s also a Coptic priest reaching to touch Mubarak as if he were Justin Bieber, and hadn’t in fact been stirring up communal suspicion of the Christians for the past dozen years of his rule. The dominant figure in this side of the picture, with some irony, is a Salafi-looking gent in a white galabeya and with a dopey grin on his face. The early nineties were the peak of the state’s war on radical Islamist groups, most of which were based in Upper Egypt, although Jihad, the group that assassinated Sadat, was based in Cairo. Even though Mubarak would send shock troops to Imbaba in 1993 and lock up 5,000 guys just for looking like this guy, of course he made it on to the painting. To his right, we have a technocrat or Infitah-era investor-executive holding what could be the blueprints to a new Hardees in Mohendiseen. It looks even like Saddam Hussein himself (far left) made it out to congratulate Mubarak.

On the left side of the picture, there’s more of the same, in distinct types. In the middle is “Ibn al-Balad,” a stock character that represents the goodness and simplicity of the Egyptian fellah (peasant) and thus the national character altogether. He was the mascot of the biggest-selling weekly magazine in Egypt during the 30s and 40s, Al-Ithneyn wal-Dunya, and would frequently show up to make satirically simplistic questions of the politicians of the day (at right). Four more women are present at the front of the crowd. One of them is wearing a visible gold cross and has her hair uncovered. The schoolgirl is wearing a uniform and also has her hair uncovered. The other two women are wearing different forms of the contemporary Hijab headcoverings. The overall effect is a subtle message that the state is OK with these public signs of female Muslim piety, but within the boundaries of postpubescence and ostensible tolerance for Christian women’s appearance. Notably, there are no upper class or bare-headed Muslim women I could identify, i.e. nobody like former first lady Suzanne Mubarak.

The North Korean creative team produced dozens of paintings for the Citadel Military Museum alone. They put this 15-foot long painting of the 1882 nationalist revolution led by Colonel ʿOrabi in a narrow hallway between two rooms, so this raked angle was the best shot I could get of it. Even though the plaque outside said the project occurred in the early nineties, the painting signatures indicate the North Koreans were making additions well into the 2000s.

The creative team didn’t just do paintings, either. Here’s a fabulous bronze statue of Mubarak emerging from a large boulder in front of a diorama of the air battles in the 1973 war. The relative success he had as chief of staff of the air force during the war secured his promotion to vice-president. It later boosted his image in his weak first decade as president.

Of course, at the end of the 1973 hall, we have an exhibit explaining and legitimating the Camp David peace process. Sadat and Menachim Begin are signing the assorted treaty paperwork with their sunglasses still on. I hope they can finish up before those monster azalea bushes swallow them whole.

For foreign visitors, the museum is crippled by poor English translations of already propagandistic bombast, resulting in a shiny string of poor grammar and run-on sentences. We missed capturing the original Arabic of the phrase below, which MAY have reduced its hilarity.

Please excuse my extended detour into Cairo’s Egyptian Military Museum. In part III, I will return to El-Alamein for an investigation into the North Korean/Mubarak overhaul of the military museum there for the 50th anniversary of the battle in 1992.

Posted in Egypt, Military, Second World War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

El-Alamein: A No-Man’s-Land of Egyptian Historical Memory (Part I)

I took a trip yesterday with @Valentine Edgar up the Cairo-Alexandria desert road to El-Alamein to see the German, Italian and British Commonwealth war cemeteries and the El-Alamein Military Museum before the end of my stay in Cairo. El-Alamein, better known to upper-class Egyptians for the resort Marina, is a small town outside Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast, where, 70 years ago this month, the British reached the lowest point of its fight against the Axis powers. North and East Africa had been the site of a colonial “cold war” between Great Britain and Italy for the better part of a decade, and when Italy finally entered the Second World War in 1940, it invaded Egypt from Libya in the west. It lasted only three weeks without German support. The British pushed back and set up a forward beachhead against the Axis in eastern Libya, but repeated setbacks in Greece and Crete in 1941 and Malaysia and Burma against the Japanese in early 1942 drained their resources until the tank armies of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took the last British fortress in Libya, Tobruk. The Allied armies fell back hundreds of kilometers in the last week of June 1942 to the last defensible point just 100 km before Alexandria. Luckily for them, this strained the German supplies and supply chain to its limit. The Axis was beginning to run short of oil, one of the principal objectives in its thrust into the Middle East. By October 1942, the British had built up a far superior air force, running on Iranian gasoline, which clinched its success in the Second Battle of El-Alamein. The following year witnessed the Axis’ long retreat into Libya, Tunisia and Italy itself.

The British Commonwealth War Cemetery at El-Alamein

In the Hinge of Fate, the fourth volume (1950) of the six-volume history of World War II that would win him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, Winston Churchill wrote, “It may almost be said, ‘Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.'” That judgment turned out to be bit premature. Despite promising just days after the victory in Alamein on November 10, 1942, “We mean to hold our own. I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire,” this is precisely what he did in his second long term as prime minister from 1951 to 1955 — and in the very spot he had proclaimed steadfastness. Although the Suez Crisis occurred under his successor Anthony Eden in 1956, Churchill oversaw the 1952 Egyptian military coup and mounting non-negotiable demands for the nationalization of the Suez Canal and military withdrawl, all of which came to pass.

Egypt had never been a crown colony of the UK. The British military occupied it in 1882 to stop a nationalist revolution against a European-imposed (neo)liberal structural adjustment (70 years before the IMF!). The British declared Egypt a protectorate to sever its ties to the Ottoman Empire when it went with the Central powers in World War I, but this arrangement only lasted until tens of thousands of Egyptians angrily denounced British rule in the 1919 Revolution. In 1922, Britain relinquished the administration of the country as part of a deal to retain military control of the Suez Canal, its lifeline to its Asian and East African colonies. This neocolonial settlement produced a strange, avant-garde sort of politics for the region, much more similar to the American style of hegemony in Latin America, or in the Middle East itself after 1945, than the British way of doing things. In 1939, the British wanted Egypt to declare war on the Axis, but for complicated reasons (Egypt’s army barely had 5,000 properly-equipped men, as a result of British policy), the Egyptian political establishment kept it neutral until 1945. It did, however, cut diplomatic ties with the Axis, and overhaul its entire economy to accommodate a 750,000-soldier military establishment.

At the peace conferences and UN for two years after the war, the Egyptians desperately promoted a narrative that this alliance and its support during the war made the country deserving of more sovereign rights and even of British evacuation. Britain naturally disagreed, and temporarily convinced America that the Cold War required they hold on to Egypt. By 1952, when Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser and his Free Officers overthrew King Farouk, the ideology of Egyptian Nationalism no longer had any place for a positive depiction of the Second World War. Many of the officers would write memoirs in which they expressed bitterness in their youth about being withdrawn from the Libyan front, humiliation from British supervision, and anger at the expropriation of their equipment and munitions, which they claimed ultimately weakened their chances in Palestine in 1948.

In 1950, the Wafd party, in its last term in power, floated the idea of making a museum and touristic resort at El-Alamein to accompany the monumental war cemeteries that the British, Italians and Germans were planning to build by the coastal road. The 1952 coup interrupted any such Egyptian plans, and the economic development projects that dominated the officers’ political agenda prevented them from being taken up for a decade. But in Egypt, the appeal of more tourist destinations is always a strong one. I don’t know the exact turn of events, but in 1965, the El-Alamein Military Museum was finally built. I suspect it came about as a result of multilateral encouragement from the European participants’ war memorialization bureaucracies, because they were active in the area and such an approach would have been less threatening than a single (British) request.

Here’s the result. There’s a dedication plaque below, but mid-1960s architecture is not difficult to spot. The low-slung concrete slab roofs with high windows, the faux-stone facade and the semi-abstract concrete screen (in the back) would not be out of place at any Californian high school gymnasium. The vintage lamp posts, I’m sure, are a bizarre afterthought. The original structure contained four halls in a counterclockwise loop: the overview hall, the Italian Hall, the German Hall and the British Hall.

This plaque reads “President Gamal ʿAbdel Nasser inaugurated the El-Alamein Military Museum, December 16, 1965.” But like many other signs made in advance to commemorate things that hadn’t happened yet, this event did not come to pass.

As fate would have it, the ceremony happened the day ʿAbdel Nasser broke diplomatic ties with Britain over its non-intervention in Rhodesia, which had just unilaterally declared an independent apartheid state in the control of a white settler minority. In the event, it appears the job of inaugurating the museum was sub-sub-contracted to the army chief of staff. I include the English language Egyptian Gazette story (from December 17, 1965) here because I could not find a single line about the event in Al-Ahram.

The Egyptian official post-colonial disdain for El-Alamein as a British triumph did not last, however. READ PART TWO TOMORROW to find out how Mubarak’s neoliberal regime attempted to re-appropriate the story — with an unlikely ally.

Posted in Egypt, Military, Second World War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Egypt in the World: The Expat Presidential Electoral Map

Here’s a map probably nobody else is going to bother making: the final presidential vote counts from the 140 Egyptian consulates and embassies abroad (available at the official site here). But I had the data and blank world maps are easy to come by, so I wanted to see what the mosaic would look like. There were only about 300,000 votes cast abroad, and 80% of them came from six Arab gulf countries where many Egyptians are more or less permanent residents but still closely tied to business and politics at home, especially to the Muslim Brotherhood. Fewer than 1,000 votes were tallied in 116 out of the 140 diplomatic posts, which means most of the colors on the map are not REALLY statistically significant. Moreover, the vote doesn’t reflect the real population of Egyptian expats living in these countries. Like in Egypt, turnout was about 50-60% in most of the large expat communities, but the voter list itself only reflects those who are legal long-term residents who bothered to register with the Egyptian consular mission in their locality. As @Valentine Edgar pointed out, that makes this a pretty upper-middle class segment of the overall population — even in the gulf, many Egyptians are on 10-month work contracts and may not have qualified as resident abroad, meaning most of them lost their opportunity to vote altogether.

Despite the general chaos on the map, there are obvious patterns. 124,643 Egyptians cast their ballots for Mursi in Saudi Arabia – that’s 90% of the votes from Saudi and 41% of all votes cast outside of Egypt. Other gulf countries had slightly more support for Shafiq: In Kuwait, for example, Shafiq received 32%; it was the only single mission where he received more than 10,000 votes. North America and Australia, on the other hand, were Shafiq territory. Egyptians voting at the LA and Montreal consulates went 76 and 77% for Shafiq, respectively, although at the Chicago consulate, the vote was 53% for Mursi. Euro-Egyptians cast the most votes in Italy, but only 54% of Milan and the north voted for Shafiq while 71% of Rome and the south did. There was no love for the Muslim Brotherhood at Vatican City. Of eight registered Egyptian residents (presumably church officials and diplomats), four voted, and they all cast their votes for Shafiq. Europe as a whole was more split than the US. Germany (1387 votes) tallied 75% for Mursi. Of the 223 votes in Japan, 88% were for Mursi.

The absurdity of the Vatican number raises an interesting question. In those places where fewer than 25 Egyptians cast votes, would it be appropriate to assume these are mostly diplomatic workers? They work at the polls, so it is convenient and I assume there is some professional pressure to participate. If so, this paints a fascinating picture of the state of opinion with employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the 47 missions in this category, there were 554 total votes — and 60% of them were for Mursi.

I made an infographic to more accurately depict where the Egyptian expatriate votes were:

Posted in Egypt, Elections, Geography, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

District Map of the Presidential Election in Lower Egypt: An Environmental History

I have finished a detailed map of the Egyptian Presidential Election final round results for the Nile Delta and major urban areas. The Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission has issued official results in at the Markaz (rural) and Qism (urban) level available in PDFs on their website, elections.eg. As we remember from Judge Farouk Sultan’s interminable speech on June 25 just before announcing the official election result, the SPEC made many adjustments to the unofficial counts released on June 18, the day after polls closed. However, these adjustments represent a very small fraction of one percent of the votes cast. The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood count from June 18 and the official state count were so close gives me confidence that, while votes may have been illegitimately influenced by actions outside the polling booth, the polls themselves were relatively fairly conducted. This means this body of data is the first reliable indication ever of Egyptians’ preferences over a very stark binary choice for the direction of the state: Islamism or “Feloul” (old-regime) revanchism. Obviously, many Egyptians went out to vote AGAINST either choice, but the geographical distribution of the result shows very strong regional tendencies, raising interesting questions about voters’ overall motives.

I have made some compromises to portray the massive amount of information on this map. This copy emphasizes the color patterns for quick reference, without place names.

Download the FULL SIZE MAP (6400 by 6400 pixels) with district number labels. The link is to a larger but still compressed preview on Google Drive. In the upper left corner, click “File” and choose “Download” to obtain the 3.4 MB file.

Then consult the FULL MAP DATA I compiled on a Google spreadsheet. It connects the number labels to the English and Arabic names of each district, but it also has all the votes, percentages, etc.

A brief note about the maps. The main borders are accurate to scale, but I have made some shortcuts and estimations in markaz and qism boundaries, especially for the smaller urban areas, so the map should not be considered official or error-free. I assembled the map by comparing several different sources. The official Governorate websites infrequently have geographically accurate maps of the qism and markaz divisions. I obtained the most reliable information from a series of government population density maps that I discovered used at different websites (here is an example). I also wanted the map only to show inhabited areas, so as a last step, I checked satellite images to create up-to-date boundaries for marshes, desert and satellite cities. As a quick reference: here are the major governorates and cities indicated on a simpler map.

I chose to make a map with these dimensions because it fit the greatest population into the smallest area, allowing a map with significant numbers at a reasonable image resolution. Here is my original Mursi map of the full country at the governorate level. Of the 25 million votes cast in the election, 19 million were within the boundaries of this new map. Shafiq did much better within the area of this map than outside it. Of the votes on the map, Shafiq took 9.9 million and Mursi only 9 million. In Upper Egypt (south of Cairo) and the desert governorates, Mursi took 4 million votes and Shafiq only 2.4 million.

The map is an extension of my previous effort that focused on the core of Cairo Governorate. The patterns I mentioned in that post are just as plain here, especially with the satellite cities of Al-Shaykh Zayed and 6th of October in Giza (173-175), and “New Cairo” or Al-Tagammuʿ Al-Khamis (220-222) in view. Even though one assumes a strong class effect in the vote — the lower and working classes for Mursi and the middle and upper classes for Shafiq — those of all classes who continue to live in the core of the city (and secular-European culture oriented Heliopolis) voted overwhelmingly for Shafiq, while voters living in these suburbs, many of which are upscale, rarely went more than 55% for Shafiq and frequently preferred Mursi. As with the formerly exclusive Al-Maʿadi, many unplanned slums live side by side with wealthy new gated communities in the urban periphery, meaning the electoral districts may reflect a mix of socioeconomic classes. President Morsi lives in a McMansion in New Cairo.

The relation between class, space and voting preference seems a little more clear-cut in Alexandria. The original core of the city (193-196) slightly prefers Shafiq, but nowhere near as much as Cairo. The entire strand from downtown Alexandria to Muntazah (186-187), a high rent district with ocean views, voted far less for Mursi than anywhere inland, where he received 65% and higher support nearly everywhere.

Taking in the Delta as a whole, the most striking feature is the uniformity of support for Shafiq in Al-Menoufiya. Except for Shibin el-Kom (37) and Markaz al-Shuhada (ironic?, 43), and Sadat City (48), industrial development land on the west side of the Nile, Shafiq received higher than 70% of the vote everywhere in this governorate. He was only this popular outside Al-Menoufiya in Cairo and a small city, Al-Kurdi (76), in Al-Daqhaliya (I don’t know why he was so popular there, but here’s a story in Arabic about a bunch of ex-NDP parliamentarians having a party in Shafiq’s honor with pictures). This monolithic slab of dark blue tends to make me suspicious that the Shafiq voting machine not only used aggressive tactics in Al-Menoufiya, but uniquely aggressive tactics. This could have included corruption at the higher levels of the governorate executive bureaucracy. More likely, it was ex-NDP patronage channels that encourage voters to come out for immediate or deferred rewards. Let’s hope they took the immediate rewards.

The second and more significant visual pattern on the map is the general contiguity between areas. There are concentric bands of similar voting behavior radiating out from Al-Menoufiya: 60-65% for Shafiq in southern Al-Gharbiya and Al-Daqhaliya, 55-60% in the rest of Al-Gharbiya, southern Al-Sharqiya and much of Al-Qalyoubiya. Shafiq support then drops off rapidly, with some exceptions. But this pattern is not merely geometric. I kept looking at this map and thinking I’d seen it somewhere before. I slowly realized that it looks very similar to historical maps of agricultural land reclamation. To confirm this hunch, I took my map template and laid out a simple land reclamation map with similar colors to the electoral map:

This map is an overlay of a few old maps and current satellite images showing the extent of cultivation in the delta from 1882 to the present. View the larger size here. Rich river delta soil has high agricultural potential, but deltas are naturally chaotic environments, prone to flooding and shifts in the course of tributaries that make rigorous irrigation a prerequisite to getting long term value out of them. The Nile historically received a huge flood in late summer because of rain patters in Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, etc. The rhythm of this flood promotes the growth of large marshes and shallow brackish lakes behind barrier islands at the coasts. Moreover, even small variations in topography can make raising enough water to feed areas outside the flood plain (in this case, the desert) difficult when there is an irregular supply of water. Through its long history, Egypt’s irrigation network has waxed and waned. Maintaining canals that filled with silt during the flood required a strong state bureaucracy to manage the huge labor requirement. In the 17th and 18th centuries, slackening Ottoman power in Egypt meant the irrigation bureaucracy was weak. The blue area on the map (1882) mostly reflects the natural flood plain with good drainage, which tapers down along the two branches of the Nile to Rosetta in the west and Damietta in the east.

The major public works project of Muhammad ʿAli Pasha’s reign as Governor of Egypt was the Mahmoudiya canal (completed 1820), built to bring fresh water to Alexandria and irrigate Al-Beheira. This land is indicated in the blue spur to the west on the map. His successors invested heavily in canals and dams to improve the flow of water during the early summer to promote cotton cash cropping. Muhammad ʿAli’s son, Saʿid, built (or properly, re-excavated) a fresh water canal (1863) to the east to supply the cities along the more famous Suez Canal; Saʿid’s successor Ismaʿil put his own name on it, and the city at the midpoint of the Suez Canal, when he became Khedive. This water was eventually used to irrigate large areas in the east (the green and yellow spur). When the British ran Egypt (1882-1923), they imposed a regime of fiscal austerity with almost all surplus state revenues committed to the improvement of public works to promote land investment and reclamation. The British finished the Nile Barrages (1891) at the fork of the Nile just north of Cairo and the first Aswan Dam (1902), which allowed an even higher water level in May and correspondingly higher cotton cultivation. But they also, less spectacularly, improved the system of drainage across the country. Irrigation is not as simple as dumping water on plants. There needs to be a constant flow of water, especially under hot conditions. Stagnant water will evaporate, leaving harmful salts and minerals on the soil. Like a house or a city, irrigated land requires two sets of canals, one for fresh and the other for used water.

From Egyptian Irrigation (1913) by W. Willcocks, the engineer of the first Aswan Dam

Drainage projects also allowed land investors during the colonial period to start claiming large areas of new land from the marshes of Lakes Mariout and Idku in the west, Lake Burullus in the north and Lake Manzala in the east. Massive engineering works were fewer during the politically chaotic interwar period, but President Nasser (1954-1970) brought back land reclamation and its distribution to the small peasantry as one of the keystones of his economic and social policies, with the full power of the state to get the job done. The jewel in the crown, of course, is the High Aswan Dam, which took his entire administration to finish. It ended the seasonal flood altogether, allowing an even supply of water across the year, spreading perennial agriculture to most arable land in the country. Without the flood, draining the marshes also became much easier. In the years since, the state and land investors have pushed further into the desert of the southwest and southeast, with somewhat tenuous results. Anyone riding a bus from Cairo to Alexandria can observe the somewhat scorched-looking meager trees and crops growing just east of the desert highway and wonder how someone is profiting from that land.

So how does this bear on elections? Life, and the state, have not been as friendly to the peasants who have lived and worked on reclaimed land. Because of the large investment involved to make the land, the peasants who have moved to these places have mostly been tenants or wage laborers on private estates of the wealthy. When they have been given title to the land, like during the Nasser era, the land quality has not been great because of a lack of investment in drainage. As an example, Al-Beheira is a province mostly reclaimed in the past 200 years (in the comparison image below). The first land that Muhammad ʿAli created in this area he gave as huge plantations to members of his family. During the British occupation, large investment companies focused on reclaiming more land, and the existing royal lands were sold off to European investors and the Egyptian haute bourgeoisie to pay off the state debt. By 1945, only 26% of the land in Al-Beheira was owned by proprietors who owned 10 feddans (about 10 acres) or less, while the land owned by individuals or companies holding 100 feddans or more, i.e. pure rentiers, was 47% of the land. In Al-Menoufiya, by comparison, these figures were 64% (10 feddans or less) and 10% (100 feddans or more).

Despite the 1952 Land Reform Law, these patterns have remained firmly entrenched in these places to the present. The law outlawed personal holdings of more than 200 feddans of land, although many wealthy families got around this provision by distributing the deeds among elderly aunts, etc. More than 100,000 landless peasant families did receive small parcels of two to five feddans, but this was only a small proportion of the overall landless population. Others benefited from minimum wage and rent control rules. But the major winners were rich middling peasants (much more prevalent in Al-Menoufiya) who already owned land and acquired much more from the Pashas who sold off their land in fire sales, and milked the Nasserist cooperatives for cheap seed and fertilizer.

In the last 20 years, Mubarak quietly retired or canceled many of the reform laws. The Guardian covered this succinctly at the beginning of the revolution. Since that time, the news has been filled with landlords increasing rent threefold and even pre-1952 owners suing peasants who received title to their land under land reform to get their land back. In cases the peasants resist, they send in thugs to seal the deal.

While all of this doesn’t explain why a landless peasant would necessarily be a pious Muslim or want an Islamist government, it does explain why they would want to vote against an elitist ex-regime minister who curried favor with his landlord. The reclaimed land-Muslim Brotherhood pattern doesn’t hold everywhere. For example, in the South district of Port Said governorate (155), where the newest reclaimed land in the country is being rolled out of Lake Manzala in parallel strips, Shafiq took 66% (out of only 8500 votes).

This map provokes many more questions, so I encourage comments below. I have licensed the maps under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please share!

Creative Commons License

Posted in Economy, Egypt, Elections, Geography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Three-and-a-Half Republics of Egypt: the Cliff’s Note

Both President Mursi and the officials of the Supreme Constitutional Court referred yesterday to the new political system of Egypt as the “second republic” during his inauguration ceremony. I had not heard this term used by high officials before, so it made me suspicious of speechwriting-coordination between the president and the “honorable institutions” to which he is now hitched. I realize that “the second republic” is a purely political phrase to signify a break with the regimes of the past. However, this usage makes implicit reference to the French historical convention of numbering their major constitutional periods. At any rate, I thought this would be a fun opportunity to write up a crib sheet about the actual constitutional history of the Egyptian republics. By my count, we are at the Third-and-a-Half Egyptian Republic:

First Republic: The Egyptian Republic (الجمهرية المصرية).

From: July 26, 1952 (coup); June 18, 1953 (official); June 25, 1956 (constitutional referendum).

Political System: Military dictatorship, then capitalist single-party authoritarianism.

Little known fact — Nasser and the Free Officers exercised power for their first year under the monarchic 1923 constitution, with King Faruq’s baby son Fuad II on the throne as head of state (born 1952 — he’s still alive). Even before they declared a republic in 1953, the officers outlawed multiparty parliamentary politics and introduced their unitary political organization, the Liberation Rally. It took four turbulent years of Nasser eliminating his political rivals to cook up an official constitution in 1956, which 98% of the population allegedly supported in referendum. The National Union party replaced the Liberation Rally, but it was still dominated by big landowners and old regime remnants. There was one session of a new People’s Assembly before the unification with Syria.

Second Republic: The United Arab Republic (الجمهرية العربية المتحدة).

From: February 10, 1958 (provisional constitution); dissolved September 28, 1961.

Political System: Egypt-dominated authoritarianism.

Syrian elites frightened by the possibility of a communist takeover agreed to a total union with Egypt in 1958. Nasser remained president of the republic (unelected by Syrians), his right-hand man General ʿAbdel Hakim ʿAmer effectively became the Egyptian governor of Syria. A People’s Assembly of members of the National Union (400 Egyptians and 200 Syrians, naturally) met for one session from 1960 to 1961. Syrian business elites never stopped complaining about Egyptian political hegemony and its socialist-style policies applied in Syria. Syrian army officers staged a coup in 1961 and declared its independence.

Republic 2.5: still called The United Arab Republic (الجمهرية العربية المتحدة), without Syria.

From: 1961; January 10, 1964 (provisional constitution).

Political System: Socialist authoritarianism.

Syrian and Egyptian private sector resistance led to Nasser intensifying his socialist program (and his Pan-Arab rhetoric, especially after Syria left). Nasser had nationalized foreign businesses in 1956, but ramped up the nationalizations from 1961-1964 until all major financial, service and industrial enterprises were in state hands. A complicated set of political groups and congresses led to the creation of a National Charter (arguably a more important document than the Constitution in this period), which outlined the country’s new socialist goals. Nasser formed a new unitary political party, the Arab Socialist Union. The People’s Assembly started meeting regularly after 1964, where the right and left wings of the ASU fought over the extent socialism in new policies. Extensive student protests after the 1967 war crippled this trend.

Third Republic: The Arab Republic of Egypt (الجمهرية العربية المصرية).

From: September 11, 1971 (constitution). Amended 1980, 2005, 2007.

Political System: President Sadat’s halfhearted attempt at economic and political liberalization, resulted in a neoliberal oligarchic mafia state under Mubarak.

After a struggle with ʿAli Sabri, the head of the left wing of the ASU, and Egypt’s (semi) victory in the 1973 war with Israel, Sadat was confident enough to launch his economic opening, the Infitah. In 1977, he passed laws allowing multiple political parties for the first time in 25 years, closing up the ASU and shifting state support to the National Democratic Party. The Wafd, Nasserists, Muslim Brothers (as independents) and other small parties returned to the scene and ran for parliament. The explosion of political discourse, especially negative reactions to the peace treaty with Israel at Camp David, led to a crackdown on both moderate and extremist opposition. Fundamentalist Islamists assassinated Sadat on October 6, 1981 in reaction. Parliamentary politics under Mubarak developed into a system in which some opposition was permitted, but elections were rigged to allow pre-negotiated minorities. Infitah import and manufacturing licensing and recently, a state enterprise privatization program, provided a lucrative patronage network to Mubarak’s NDP, which managed to keep factionalism in the party under control. The military, while remaining a power center, increasingly resented the economic power of the NDP elite.

Republic 3.5: The Arab Republic of Egypt (الجمهرية العربية المصرية).

From: February 11, 2011 (popular revolution); March 19, 2011 (referendum on constitutional amendments); June 18, 2012 (supplemental constitutional declaration). There are many other SCAF decrees that affect the current constitutional arrangement: Ahram Online has an in-depth timeline.

Political system: Military dictatorship. As of yesterday, popularly elected president with restricted powers and no legitimate parliament or constitution.

If you have read this far, you are probably familiar with the current situation. The Armed Forces dissolved parliament on June 18, and with it, the representative constituent assembly that was going to write the constitution for Egypt’s fourth republic. Re-doing this process will take a while, and with political forces as they stand, the constitution will be profoundly flawed. Turkey is only now undergoing a democratic process to remove the armed forces from its legal hegemony in its constitution, 30 years after a military junta forced its current constitution on the public.

P.S. The French Fourth Republic lasted 12 years: 1946-1958.

Posted in Constitution, Egypt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment