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The First Round of Egypt’s Presidential Election: What Actually Happened?

A little late to this, but I wanted to look at the first round of Egypt’s presidential election and evaluate what happened.

I only partially get to claim predicting this outcome. After noting that Moussa’s support was probably very overstated, I still went ahead and predicted “Shafiq and Moussa win the first round, although a strong possibility that it will be Shafiq and Morsy.” With that in the past, I wanted to offer a few thoughts on what happened. There are obviously many people qualified to provide more detailed analysis in a way that I can’t, but I hope this provides some original insight for others to mull over.

Moussa didn’t collapse, his support never existed

One of the most shocking things for many was that after leading every survey for the past year, Amr Moussa finished in a distant fifth place. I think the real reason Moussa lost is the people who would have voted for him didn’t vote. As I discussed before the election, Moussa was doing far better in those surveys which had a lower level of “undecided” voters. Many of these surveys also had turnout models of around 70-80 percent. Actual turnout, however, was around 40 percent. This is probably where to look when trying to explain the massive failure of those polling the election and I think it can explain where Moussa’s support went as well. Moussa’s support was among the undecided voters who are typically the least engaged and least informed. The most partisan supporters are going to be the mostly likely to vote on Election Day in any country. The ones less attached to any candidate are going to be the least. The causality of the relationship is that the most active and informed citizens will develop the most interest in candidates and issues. If Moussa’s advisers were smart, they would have told him he was going to lose early on May 23 when the initial turnout estimates started to come out.

Moussa was a consensus option. This may sound like a good place to be in, but consensus options are your second choice, not your first. In other words, Moussa was the guy everybody would have voted for in round two.

Aboul Fotouh’s benefited from Salafi support

It’s hard to pin down Aboul-Fotouh’s base of support. He seemed at times to enjoy popularity among liberals and Salafists.  The latter, we know, did endorse his candidacy (at least several leading figures). While it’s true that the Salafis don’t have the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a decent correlation between Al-Nour party vote percentage in 2011 (the Salafi poliitcal party) and About-Fotouh vote percentage in 2012.

The relationship is robust, and Nour Party vote totals can explain 44 percent of the variation in Aboul Fotouh support.  One notable outlier is the governorate of Kafr el-Sheikh, where Aboul Fotouh did far worse than we would have expected given Nour’s performance in 2011. Two explanations for this are 1) Kafr el-Sheikh is the home governorate of Hamdeen Shabhi and 2) prominent Salafi cleric Abu Ishak was in Germany having his leg amputated,  severely hurting the Salafi network in the region.

Ahmed Shafiq’s support

The brief surge of Omar Suleiman in the polls, before he was disqualified, showed that there was a large constituency for a return to the Mubarak era. You can think of this what you will, but it’s the truth. Shafiq clearly understood this and tapped into this sentiment. There have been two things said about Shafiq’s support. That it is 1) based solely in the Delta, and 2) based primarily on Coptic Christians. These not only contradict themselves slightly (there aren’t a lot of Christians in the Delta) but the latter charge has a danergous ethnic element to it. I’ve heard that the MB played up this story to their own benefit, but I’ve also seen some on the left make the same charge.

Let’s first look at the Christian accusation. It’s obviously impossible to tell the religion of the person who cast each vote and the government has always refused to reveal religious demographic data by governorates.  But we do have a nice proxy for Coptic voters via the last parliamentary elections: the Free Egyptians Party. Although it presents itself as a secular party representing all Egyptians, The Free Egyptians’ base is well-known to consist almost entirely of Coptic Christians. So what happens when we look for correlations between Free Egyptians votes in 2011 and Shafiq votes in 2012? Well, it turns out there is nothing there. Does this mean no Copts voted for Shafiq? Of course not, many clearly did. But many Muslims voted for him as well.

The other charge is that Shafiq only did well because of the Delta region. This is partially true; thirty-three percent of Shafiq’s votes came from the governorates of Minoufiya, Sharqyia and Gharbiya. But the charge that this somehow undermines his legitimacy seems odd. Saying that Shafiq’s support is only a Delta thing is like saying his support is only a “half of the country” thing. Forty-four percent of Sabahi’s came from the two large cities of Alexandria and Cairo/Giza, but we don’t hear any complaints about that.

The Egyptian left failed to coordinate

Two-round presidential electoral systems are pretty common. The requirement to ensure a candidate receives an absolute majority of voters creates a level of legitimacy that a plurality winner would not have. It also reduces the need for voters and candidates to act strategically. There is more room for a voter to cast a ballot for their first choice, even if they don’t think they will likely win. It’s not wasting a ballot if they can assume their second choice (the consensus candidate) makes it into the second round.

This assumes, however, a consolidated political spectrum that has a clear line between the left and the right. It also assumes voters have some concept of the relative strength of the candidates (ideally they would be supported by a party, which would have a clear level of support). Egyptian voters didn’t have these options. Many on the left voted for Aboul Fotouh, thinking he was the least bad option that also had the most realistic chance of winning. Others choose Sahbahi, while some went for Shafiq. I’m hearing a lot of, admittedly anecdotal, stories of voters wishing they knew beforehand that Sahbahi would perform so well. This is understandable. Despite his late surge, a rational, secular Egyptian voter could have felt that voting for Sahbahi was a wasted vote.

It’s not just the lack of information about relative candidate strength that hurt the left, however; it was the lack of a defined left-right spectrum that made it difficult to coordinate. In Germany you could vote for the Greens in the first round, then the Social Democrats in the runoff.  This would be the logical shift in preference based on your options. What would have been the similar path for a liberal? Who would have come before Sahbahi? How would one even begin to place candidates like Aboul-Fotouh on any spectrum?

Predictions: Egyptian presidential election

The first round of Egypt’s presidential election is tomorrow, which means it’s time for everybody to make their predictions. I think the biggest story of late has been the surprise surge of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. I say surprise, although an Egyptian friend has been predicting his success for some time now. It’s difficult to get a handle on the race because the polling has been rather erratic.  With that being said, I think it’s possible to analyze some of the polls and make some comments.

I created a poll of polls, using Al Masry Al Youm’s and Al-Ahram’s weekly surveys. I chose these two because they were the only ones to be released at nearly identical times for seven weeks.

A couple thoughts and random speculations on these numbers:

The two sets of surveys had some notable differences. Al Masry Al Youm’s had a far higher number of undecided voters (It would have been nice to know how the questions were worded). Al-Ahram, on the other hand, gave a slight edge to several candidates, most notably, Amr Moussa. In fact, Moussa polled on average 23 points higher in Al-Ahram polls than Masry’s. It looks like Al-Ahram was pushing respondents harder to make a decision, as its lower undecided number produced higher numbers for every major candidate.  The fact that Moussa gained so much from this group, could indicate that a lot of the support we see for him in these surveys is not solidified, or even committed to voting. This would support the narrative that from the beginning, Moussa was largely running so strong due to name recognition.

People aren’t that undecided.  One of the most notable aspects of these polls is the high number of undecideds in the race. Al-Masry Al-Youm even has 33 percent of all voters listed as undecided in their last poll. The thing is, the surveys also have a very high number of people claiming they will vote. In fact, the last poll shows that 87 percent of all registered voters will turn out. Voter turnout models are hard, US pollsters still struggle with it, but these firms still need a better screen. Turnout in the recent parliamentary polls was around 54 percent. The difference between those two numbers (87 and 54) is roughly the number of undecideds in their poll. I’m definitely not claiming that all the undecideds did not vote in the last election, and will not vote in this one.  But I do think it’s safe to assume that opinions are a bit more solidified at this stage in the race.  We probably shouldn’t speculate about where this mass number of undecideds will go.  They might not go anywhere.

Shafiq’s surge is real. According the poll of polls, Shafiq is in second place with 21 percent of the vote.  The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsy and Hamdeen Sabahi are also enjoying small surges, although remain far behind.  Shafiq was smart in having a strong ground operation and playing to his base.  He probably also took note of the brief surge of Omr Suleiman, which showed that their was a constituency for a law and order candidate. Shafiq didn’t try to straddle several social cleavages (like Moussa and Fotouh), he just built a base within one group and developed a clear message.

We get to see if in Egypt, the Party decides. Morsy is enjoying a late surge but still looks like he will fall short of the top two. This seems like a great opportunity to really see the strength of the Brotherhood’s ground operation.  Morsy doesn’t have the personal popularity of other candidates. If he alone polls far better than the surveys indicated, we can probably infer a lot about the MB’s grassroots strength.

Final Predictions: Shafiq and Moussa win the first round, although a strong possibility that it will be Shafiq and Morsy.

Parties sometimes act like parties, Middle East edition

Ennahda

In his paper, Candidate Recruitment and Former Rebel Parties, John Ishiyama examined the transformation of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from rebel group to political party.  Ishiyama argued while those who study post-conflict environments view rebel-to-party organizations as distinct from traditional parties, they should actually act the same when they try to enter parliament.  His research showed that the UCPN (Maoist) ran its most loyal candidates in safe districts while it ran more mainstream candidates in tougher districts.  Ishiyama’s methodology was interesting, but it’s still unclear if his relationship is endogenous.  As he only has one election to base data off of, we do not know that his independent variable (margin of victory per district) was driving his dependent variable (candidate ran) or vice versa.  While still in progress, Ishiyama’s paper is a novel contribution to the literature examining the behavior of rebel movements as they transition to political parties.

Ishiyama’s paper is important, however, because it argues that the internal structure of an organization can be less important than the institutional rules it feels it has to play by.   Both of these things, of course, are important, but I’m sympathetic to the idea that we don’t pay enough attention the latter, especially with regards to political party activity.  I believe that with regards to studying political parties, “party” should be a verb as well as a noun.   Organizations choose to “party” when they want certain benefits from the government.  This is an important way to look at things because it could have implications for how we expect parties to behave.  Several months ago, Eric Trager wrote an article in Foreign Affairs, that effectively argued the hierarchical structure of the Muslim Brotherhood would prevent it from moderating in a way we should expect from a political party.  This isn’t a bad prediction, but I don’t think we can assume this will happen.  Buried in this France 24 story about Ennahda, is a tidbit that the Islamist party had very different campaign messages depending on what part of the country it was running in.  While this probably seems banal to an American citizen, this behavior for a party shouldn’t be common if we assume a party’s internal structure and ideology are the most important predictors of how they will act. (Not sure of Ennahda’s structure but its ideology could suggest low flexibly).

I wonder if anybody who was on the ground in Egypt could provide insight into differing campaign messages with regards to the FJP.   It would also be interesting to see if FJP MPs who were elected in the nominal tier of seats behave differently than those elected on the list tier.  It would be nice if such votes are recorded and somebody would be able to collect this data.

Bad election managment

From Al Masry Al Youm:

Disabled citizens faced difficulties while voting in this week’s round of parliamentary elections, a number of rights groups have said.

There were no sign language interpreters to help the deaf and the majority of polling stations were located on upper floors, making it difficult for voters in wheelchairs, the Egyptian Coalition for the Disabled in Alexandria said.

[…]Heba Hagras, an Egyptian Bloc candidate who has a disability, also said no facilities were available for those with special needs. Hagras said she found it difficult to go up to the polling stations in her wheelchair. She said one supervising judge refused to leave the voting station to help her.

Mohamed Mokhtar, who also uses a wheelchair, said his polling station was on the third floor and the scrambling of voters made it even more difficult to reach the ballot box.

There are a lot of people with disabilities in Egypt.  This is embarrassing.

Compulsory voting in Egypt

Something I’ve heard surprisingly little about with all the election coverage is how Egyptians are responding to the High Election Commission’s (HEC) announcement  that the government fully plans on enforcing the country’s mandatory voting requirements. I did find this from the Daily News Egypt.

“We do not have a polling station specifically for senior citizens so we have to take permission from other voters in the queue to go to the front because we cannot stand for too long,” said a voter who preferred to remain anonymous at one of Tora’s polling stations.

Some of those senior citizens came to vote because they are afraid of the LE 500 fine if they fail to vote,” Fathy said, adding that they do not even know the candidates they will vote for and are asking others about their selected candidates.

The law requiring eligible voters to participate existed in the past, but was never enforced.   The HEC, however, has publicly stated that it intends to levy a LE 500 (Approximately 83 USD) fine on any eligible voter who does not cast a ballot.  (I can’t find out if this applies to both the first and second round). While LE 500 could be easily paid by richer Egyptians, it is the equivalent of many months’ salary for the large lower class. This raises serious concerns over the ethicacy of such a law that will disproportionately hurt lower economic classes.   Given the unconsolidated nature of the political party system, it seems unfair to force voters to choose somebody, when it is more than possible that nobody represents their views.   Turnout for the March referendum was only 41 percent of eligible voters, indicating a large number of Egyptians are not political engaged.

I could speculate on the effects of compulsorily voting in Egypt, but it wouldn’t be much more than that.  I do think the greatest threat it could pose to the election process would be dramatically increasing the number of invalid ballots.  From what I’ve gathered, both the ballots for the nominal and list tier of seats need to be filled out correctly for an elector’s votes to count.  Given the high illiteracy rate, confusing ballot design, and the fact that mandatory voting is most likely to bring out apathetic voters, I could see how this would cause problems.  Of course a well organized party could take advantage of this by providing voters with information on how to cast a ballot.  Anthony Downs’ model is put to the test.

Hopefully somebody did an exit poll and asked how big of a factor this was in turning out voters.  Until we have final turnout numbers, however, there isn’t much we can go on.

Egypt’s election law favors small parties, fractured parliament

Although it’s difficult to predict many aspects of Egypt’s upcoming election, most observers assume that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will win a plurality of seats, while the smaller, divided liberal parties will perform poorly.  This is most likely true.  What is not true, however, is the often-stated proposition that this is partially because the country’s electoral system works to the Brotherhood’s advantage.   There are some good reasons people have said this.  Under previous versions of the electoral law, I’ve made the same argument.   As the rules stand now, however, this is not completely true.   The details of the new electoral system, specifically the seat allocation method in the proportional tier, will give actually give a boost to the fractured liberal parties, while depriving the Brotherhood of a majority they would obtain in more commonly used electoral systems.  The reason for this is due to the formula used to calculate who wins the two-thirds of seats in the proportional representation tier.

No proportional representation system can perfectly award seats in one-to-one relation to vote shares. There are various systems for allocating seats proportionally but broadly speaking, they all fall into two categories: the largest remainder method (which Egypt uses), and the highest average method.  For the largest remainder method, each seat in a legislature corresponds to a raw number of votes, equal to a quota, and a party’s seat share depends on the number of quotas it wins in an election.  How that quota is calculated varies based on the system, but under the simplest method, the Hare quota,  total votes are divided by N (total) seats to create a quota used for allocation.  After this number is calculated, parties are awarded seats for every time they reach that quota.  However, after the quota is reached a certain number of times, there are bound to be some seats left over, as well as remainder votes that didn’t contribute to a full quota. Parties’ remainder votes are then tallied and used to determine who will get the remaining seats.

For the upcoming elections, it appears Egypt will use a Hare quota.  Despite its recent use in Tunisia, the Hare quota is a somewhat unpopular method. Figure one shows that the largest remainder method, and the Hare quota specifically, isn’t nearly as common as the highest average method of seat allocation.  I bring this up because it’s notable the government chose a less common system.

Figure one

Hare quotas may be less popular because, while being easier to understand, they are slightly less proportional than other systems. In general, Hare quota’s favor smaller parties, and produce more fractured parliaments.  In the case of Egypt, it will benefit smaller parties.  To illustrate this, let’s look at how the Hare quota will play out.  In Figure two, I made a very crude estimate of a hypothetical vote distribution in one of Cairo’s four districts (with a district magnitude of ten). For vote totals, I divided how well each party was doing in the most recent public opinion survey by the total voters.  My total voters was calculated by taking how many Cairo voters participated in the March referendum and dividing by four (the number of districts in Cairo).  The problem with this, of course, is that I’m using a national poll and placing it at a district level. Unless somebody is willing to provide me with crosstabs, however, this is the best I can do.  First the Hare quota is calculated (576,640/N (10)), which equals 57,664.  This is the number of votes a party needs to get one seat in the first distribution. After this, however, we still have five more seats to allocate.  So the remainders are then ordered from highest to lowest, and the five parties with the highest remainders are given one extra seat.

Figure two (Click to enlarge)

Freedom and Justice gets four seats, Al-Wafd gets two, and the remaining four seats go to the next four parties. Note that in this scenario, Freedom and Justice isn’t being specifically disadvantaged; they are actually receiving the number of seats they deserve. It’s just that smaller parties, are getting more seats than we would expect if the system was perfectly proportional.

Now let’s look at how the exact same scenario would turn out if we used the much more common, highest average method.  Specifically, the D’Hondt system, which is the most common method used across the world.  Figure three below shows how this works.  Party votes are first divided by 1, then 2, then 3, and so on until they reach N number of seats in the district.  So in our Cairo district, they would keep dividing untill they reached ten.  This produces the chart we see below. After this, the N (in this case, ten) highest distributions are found, and each one awards that party a seat.   As we can see below, this method give Freedom and Justice six seats in total, Al-Wafd three, and Al-Nour one.  In this case, Freedom and Justice overperforms, while the other parties generally get what should be expected.

Figure three (Click to enlarge)

It should also be noted that this method would favor Freedom and Justice even more in smaller Egyptian districts.  Under the D’Hondt method, a decrease in districts magnitude can decrease the number of parties who win a seat.  If, for example, this was a rural district in Masa Matruh Governorate, with four seats, then Freedom and Justice would get three seats and Wafd one.

There are several interpretations of why the SCAF would choose the largest remainder method.  The first is that they were simply using the system closest to what was used the last time Egypt had PR elections, in the 1980s. (1) This would seem plausible.  A second interpretation is that this is an attempt to weaken the Muslim Brotherhood, whom they knew would be the largest party.  (Perhaps the Tunisian transitional authority made the same calculation with regards to weakening Enahda’s seat total).  A third interpretation is that the SCAF wants to reduce the number of wasted votes (votes cast for a party that doesn’t enter parliament).  A high number of wasted votes could jeopardize the legitimacy of the election in the eyes of many Egyptians.  A fourth, very cynically theory that I don’t actually believe, is that the SCAF is intentionally trying to create a parliament that is as fractured and weak as possible.  The SCAF’s reluctance to abolish the nominal tier of seats, which most people predict will be won predominately by independents; the low .5% threshold for entering parliament; and the Hare quota, are all rules that will favor a greater quantity of small parties, and MPs with no party affiliation.   This could create a parliament that is weak and ineffective, either creating a strong president, or  weakening the public’s trust in democratic institutions.  An extreme cynic could argue that both of these would benefit the SCAF.

I’m more inclined to believe in the first explanation, and think that a large number of wasted votes is greater threat to the legitimacy of the election than a fractured parliament. Regardless of why these rules were chosen, however, it’s important to realize the implications they will have.

(1) In 1984 and 1987, Egypt used a modified Hare Quota, where seats that could not be awarded on the basis of full quotas were awarded to whichever party had at least half a quota. When no party achieved this cutoff, such seats were awarded to the nationally most popular party. This was a very unproportional way to allocate remainders, and served to boost the seat total of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

Open question

I’m a bit confused as to what seems like contradictory aspects of Egypt’s election law.  Article 37 states that the High Election Commission must publish results three days after the election or referendum.  However, for elections that take place in stages, as the People’s Assembly does, results only have to be announced after the final stage.  This seems like a strange requirement as the PA elections also contain two rounds.  The decision to hold a second round, and which candidates would participate, would inherently require results from the first round to be published.  Am I reading this wrong?

Egypt, list PR, and largest remainders

Eric Trager has a new article out for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

I genuinely appreciate the research Trager does, though I often disagree with his analysis, but I wanted to highlight a major problem I read in his article:

The official election bylaws have yet to be released, but reports suggest that the party-list elections will be based on district-wide voting, with winners determined using the “largest remainder system.” According to this method, only those parties that meet or exceed the quota of votes for a given district will be able to win seats. For example, in a district with five seats, a party must win at least 20 percent of the vote to gain a seat; even if a party finishes within the top five, none of its candidates will be seated if it does not cross the 20 percent threshold.

If this system is enacted, it will significantly hamper newer parties in the next parliamentary elections. The local nature of these party-list elections — as opposed to the nationwide systems in other democracies — makes it unlikely that small and still-forming parties will be able to compete effectively. Even in those districts where they might field multiple candidates, they would have trouble surpassing the relatively high thresholds that the largest remainder system implies.

This is simply untrue about largest remainder systems; largest remainders do not make it necessary to reach a quota.  This should be somewhat intuitive if you think about.  If this were really the case, then what if many parties ran and nobody reached that number?  All PR systems, broadly speaking, rely on quotas to allocate seats; the largest remainder system is not exceptional.  In fact, it is actually more favorable to smaller parties than the highest average method.  To illustrate this, lets compare several scenarios using three different methods.  The first is the standard highest average method of allocation seats, the D’hondt method.  For the largest remainder system, we will use a Droop quota as examples.  For each example, I’ll have one party receive 60,000 votes (60% in our district), while the next two only get 20,000 and 10,000 respectively.  The other parties only get 1,000 each.  This is an extremely fractured party system, but it will help demonstrate what could happen in many Egyptian districts.

In the D’Hondt method, the total votes cast for every party (100,000) is divided, first by 1, then by 2, then 3,  up to the total number of seats to be allocated (six for our example).  Then the N highest entries (six in our example) are counted and awarded to those parties.

So in this example, Party A wins five seats, while Party B wins one.

Largest remaineder methods, however, work a bit differently.  Instead, total votes are divided by N seats to create a quota used for allocation.  Parties are awarded seats for every time they reach that quota.  However, after the quota is reached a certain number of times, there are bound to be remainders.  The remainders are then used to determine who will get the remaining seats.  So using a Droop quota below, we can use the same election scenario and see how things would play out.

First the Droop quota is calculated (100,000/(N+1))+1, which equals 14,286.  This is the number of votes a party needs to get one seat in the first distribution. After this, however, we still have one more seat to allocate.  Party C has only 10,000 votes, much less than the Droop quota, but they have the largest remainder votes after their initial tally was divided by the quota.  Because of this, they get the remaining seat, which makes this a more equal allocation method than highest averages.

Egypt’s potential district boundaries, Ctd. Workers and farmers

In my last post I went over the basics of Egypt’s new district boundaries.  Now I would like to delve into the some of their potential implications.

The most noticeable aspect of the districts are their size: only four or six seats for each one.  The reason for the only even numbers confused me at first, until I realized this must be to accommodate the constitutional requirement that half of all MPs be workers or farmers.   The nominal tier of seats is already a convoluted mess because of this strange requirement, so I guess it makes sense for the ordinal tier to suffer from it too.   Why is this the case?  Well in order to guarantee that half the representatives are workers and farmers, every district will need to send half of its delegation from that class. This means that every party list will have to employ what is commonly known as a zipper provision.  That is, every other list member must be a worker or farmer.  This also explains why Egypt is proposing a closed-list system.  Open-lists would allow voters to cast preference votes, which could place non workers or farmers at the top of the lists.  Because of this rule, the small size of districts could result in a PR tier where almost only worker or farmers are elected.  In the standard district with four seats, for example, we might expect that one party would capture two seats, and two other parties would split the remaining half.  This would mean that three of the four delegates would be from the reserved class, with only the second list member of the largest party not belonging to that group.  With the fractionalized nature of Egypt’s current party system, few parties getting more than one seat per district is not unlikely.

This requirement will also place party leaders in a bit of a bind.  Normally a party leader would run at the top of their respective list. Most party leaders, I assume, would not like to risk being second place on a list in  a four seat district.  This will probably cause party leaders to 1) run in extremely favorable districts (if they exist), or 2) run in the nominal tier of seats.  The thing is, I’m not sure how many party leaders could win in the nominal tier of seats.

The other major implication I can think of is the impact this will have on women’s representation.   The NDP did institute a gender quota in the previous election, which was a special tier of 64 SMD seats.  It wasn’t too popular, and the current gender quota is for every party to include at least one women on every party list.  Originally, the placement had to be on the top half of the list, but this was changed to the weak requirement that they could be placed anywhere.  The small districts will make list placement even more important for candidates, which means that there is a less likely chance women will get winnable slot.

Egypt’s potential district boundaries

The new districts for Egypt’s parliamentary election were leaked the other day. You can find the links for the the nominal and list tier respectively, here and here. It appears that the districts will be based around Egypt’s 27 governorates, which makes some sense, but will also reduce proportionality. The allocation of PR districts is strange; district size is either four or six seats, regardless of governorate size.  So Cairo, with 28 seats, is divided into seven districts of four seats.   Not surprisingly, most parties are upset about the new boundaries, although the Muslim Brotherhood – to my knowledge – hasn’t really commented on them.

While there are limitations on what we can analyze (and I welcome comments from those more knowledgeable) we can examine many aspects of the new boundaries.  The first, and perhaps most important, question to ask is if the boundaries are relativity fair, or malapportioned.  This is easy to examine as population statistics are available. (One important note, for population I added the populations of Helwan to Cairo and 6th of October to Giza, as those two governorates were recently reintegrated into their old territories.)

Figure one shows that the population of a governorate and the number of PR seats it was awarded are largely related.  The regression has an R squared score of .9178.

Figure one

Figure two (click to enlarge) does a better job of showing which governorates received more or less seats than they would have if seats were perfectly distributed.   Giza comes out pretty poorly, being underrepresented  by almost six seats, followed by Qalyubia and Shariqia.  At first glance this looks like a wide disparity, but in reality I think this isn’t too bad.  The fact that the chart is compressed (so it was easier to read) gives the impression that there is a lot of range, but most governorates fall between one and two seats outside of their expected level. It is notable, however, that with few exceptions, higher population areas do worse than low ones. The governorates in the chart are ordered from highest population to lowest, so we can see a pretty obvious bias towards the right side.

Figure two

Next, we can look at how proportional each governorate is.  I’m aware of some proportionality indices, but they only work if we have party votes.  (If anybody knows a good way to measure without this information, please let me know).  So absent this information, I tried another idea. I took the the percentage difference between district magnitude if the 252 PR seats were perfectly distributed, and the actual average district magnitude in each governorate. So, for example, if seats were distributed perfectly by population, Cairo would receive 29 seats.  Then the most proportional distribution would be for all of it’s 8,968,694 residents to vote in one district with 29 seats.  In reality, however, the average district magnitude is 4, with each one having 2,242,181 residents in it. Comparing the percentage difference of these numbers across governorates should allow us to view how proportional each region is in comparison to each other. Figure three shows there is once again a pattern; large population governorates are the least proportional while small ones are more so.  Lines in red have an actual district magnitude lower than the expected value, while blue lines have a DM that is actually higher than we would expect.  This pattern isn’t terribly surprising and should be expected when you hold the district magnitude constant across all regions, regardless of population.

Figure three

Cairo stands out as the least proportional governorate; its average DM of four means there are 1,933,549 more people per district than there would be if the governorate had a district magnitude of 29. (A 152% difference in actual district magnitude). Figure four shows the relationship between population and this measure of disproportionality.

Figure four

So the largest governorates enjoy a small, but real benefit as far as overall representation, but suffer with regards to proportionality.  Overall, however, nothing seems too off with these boundaries.

So what are people saying about the boundaries? Well, mostly bad things.  Some of the complaints, however, seem unfair:

Mohamed Farag, assistant secretary-general of Al-Tagammu Party, said that the distribution of constituencies was “illogical”.

“Giza governorate for example is divided into three constituencies … north, middle and south,” Farag explained, adding that the north combines villages with more developed districts.

“The needs and types of people in each area are different … and impossible to include in one constituency,” he added.

Heaven forbid an MP would have to represent more than one type of person.  However, others are complaining that the large sizes of the territories will favor candidates with more money, as it costs more to run a campaign in larger areas.  This probably has some merit with regards to the nominal tier of seats, but shouldn’t matter for the list tier.  It is somewhat ironic, however, that this is a result of complaints by these same actors.  The allocation of seats was originally planned with the nominal tier accounting for 2/3 of all seats.  Parties, however, argued for the PR tier to count for more.  They got their wish (the tiers are now split 50/50) but the decrease in nominal seats invariably means they will need to be larger.

Update: A recent discussion with an Egyptian friend of mine shed light on some of the complaints people are making with the district boundaries, especially those in the nominal tier.  Districts, like they were in the past, are based around the presence of  police stations.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Needles to say, this means that many districts aren’t exactly drawn in a manner most optimal to creating fair representation.

Update 2: Changes made in second graph after reading comments.

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