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Research Questions

  1. What were the subnational voting patterns in Egypt's four major votes since the revolution?
  2. Where is the Islamist voting base strongest?
  3. Where are non-Islamist groups having the most success?
  4. What trends can be observed across the election results?
  5. What predictive information can be gleaned from recent political developments, including the street protests against the Muslim Brotherhood in late 2012 and early 2013 and the emergence of the National Salvation Front as an umbrella for non-Islamist opposition groups?

While much has been written on the electoral strength of Islamists in Egypt, most analysis has been done at the national level, ignoring regional divides within the country. As a means of helping U.S. policymakers and Middle East watchers better understand voting patterns in Egypt since the 2011 revolution, RAND researchers identified the areas where Islamist parties run strongest and the areas where non-Islamists are most competitive. They found that while Islamists perform well across the whole of the country, they draw their strongest electoral support in Upper Egypt, North Sinai, and sparsely populated governorates in the west, while non-Islamist parties fare best in Cairo and its immediate environs, Port Said, South Sinai, and the sparsely populated governorates abutting the Red Sea. Tracking electoral performance over time reveals a narrowing of the gap between Islamist parties and their non-Islamist rivals. Islamists thoroughly dominated the initial parliamentary elections held in late 2011 and early 2012, just as their position prevailed overwhelmingly in the March 2011 referendum on the interim constitution. However, the MB candidate eked out a victory in the June 2012 presidential contest, and the December 2012 referendum on the permanent constitution passed more narrowly than the interim charter. Egypt appears headed toward a much more competitive political environment in which Islamists will be increasingly challenged to maintain their electoral edge.

Key Findings

Political Geography Plays a Role

  • Similar to the United States, Egypt has its own "red state-blue state" dynamics.
  • Islamists run strongest in the governorates of Upper Egypt, the outlying Western governorates, and North Sinai.
  • Non-Islamist parties have polled well in Cairo and its immediate environs, South Sinai, as well as in the more sparsely populated governorates abutting the Red Sea.
  • The Delta has been contested territory, with Islamists underperforming their national averages but still doing well in absolute terms.

Islamist Support Appears to Be Declining

  • Islamists achieved their high-water mark in the initial ballots after the January 25 Revolution, but the gap between them and their non-Islamist rivals has narrowed since then.
  • Although non-Islamists announced a boycott of the upcoming election, their influence is not weakening. Further, non-Islamist parties could benefit from extended Islamist leadership, if that leadership proves a disappointment to voters.
  • Should non-Islamists reconsider their boycott and contest the 2013 parliamentary elections, they are likely to improve their performance from the 2011-2012 elections.


  • The United States should avoid targeting assistance programming in ways that advantage one political party over another. This would only undermine the recipient's credibility and invite allegations that they are operating as a "fifth column" of the West.

This research was supported through philanthropic contributions and conducted within the Center for Middle East Public Policy, part of International Programs at the RAND Corporation.

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