Compared to only the last two presidential elections, those of 2018 recorded the highest abstention percentage. In 2012 and 2014, the percentage did not exceed 53%. In addition, the presidential elections of 2018 witnessed a percentage of 7.3% of invalid ballots, which is the highest one compared to, not only the last two presidential elections, but all presidential elections and referenda that happened throughout the Egyptian history.
In this piece, we try to explore the whole picture of Elections 2018, comparing it with the previous rounds on the governorates geographical level. We analyzed the available data to produce indicators that better describe the reality of political participation after more than seven years since January 2011, and we have also included comments and opinions from experts such as some Political Science professors and one of the heads of al-Sisi’s campaign.
Abstention up again
“The whole world could see al-Sisi was to win”Muhammadi al-Garhi
“Some of the invalid ballots meant to express their outrage regarding what happened with Shafeeq and Anan”Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed
Al-Garhi explains that Election 2012 had lower abstention rate because the youth in particular insisted on participating in the election, believing that it was a part of their revolution. “That kind of feeling was not present at the same level in 2018,” he said.
Al-Sayed continued that the first presidential election after January 2011 had less abstainers because it had a real competition with real presidential campaigns on the ground. “Furthermore, the economic status was no as bad as today,” he believes.
The following interactive maps uncover a number of indicators. For example, we can see Great Cairo, Delta and Canal governorates were of low abstention percentage in Election 2012. This cluster of highly active governorates has started to disintegrate in the last two presidentials, with the exception of Gharbia. Abstention rose up in Giza, for instance, from 47% in 2012 to 70% in 2018. In Suez, it went from 45% up to 60%.
Other governorates did not have a clear trend, like Kafr El-Sheikh. A few governorates were more politically active in 2018 than 2012. On top of them is al-Wadi al-Gadeed governorate that stood at 58% abstention percentage in 2012, and went down to 41% in 2018.
This waffle graph details the five highest governorates that witnessed an increase in the abstention level between Election 2012 and Election 2018. Those five governorates, as stated in the graph, are Giza, Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Damietta. On the level of change between these two elections, 20 governorates all witnessed abstention an increase. The remaining seven, namely are Beheira, Qena, Marsa Matrouh, Asyout, Kafr El-Sheikh, South Sinai and al-Wadi al-Gadeed.
Brief history of invalid ballots
This waffle graph details the highest five governorates that witnessed an increase in the level of invalid ballots between Election 2012 and Election 2018, namely are North Sinai, Marsa Matrouh, Suez, al-Bahr al-Ahmar and al-Wadi al-Gadeed. They are all border and canal governorates. All other governorates witnessed rise in the percentage between these two elections, without any exception.
To connect the two indicators, abstention and invalid ballots, we created the following graph. Each circle resembles a governorate. The further the governorate goes to the right, the higher the increase percentage of the voter numbers it is. The further to the left it is, the more the decrease percentage of the voter number it is. The further up it goes, the higher the percentage of invalid ballots it is.
In this graph, we can see that the decrease of abstention rate in the previously mentioned seven governorates; Beheira, Qena, Marsa Matrouh, Asyout, Kafr El-Sheikh, South Sinai and al-Wadi al-Gadeed, did not necessarily mean an increase in the level of positive participation. In North Sinai and al-Wadi al-Gadeed, for instance, the increase in voters number led to an increase in the invalid ballots at the same time. On the other side, Cairo and Giza represent the worst case, in which the number of voters decreased and invalid ballots increased. In both cases, invalid ballots recorded high increases of at least 40%.
The Political Sciences professor believes that some others who invalidated their ballots meant expressing their outrage of what happened with the previous candidates Ahmed Shafeeq and Sami Anan.
At the same time, the pro-Sisi young man thinks that the figure may also indicate that there is a group of people who are not satisfied with the status quo. “But this is normal. This happens in the whole world,” he believes.