Egypt is not lost to Islamists: RAND report
The think tank's most recent report on Egypt is to be launched today in the US Congress
After analysing post-revolution voting in Egypt, RAND, a US think tank, reports that Islamists are losing ground and recommends the US not interfere in Egyptian politics.
'Voting Patterns in Post-Mubarak Egypt,' issued by RAND, a non-profit organisation that provides research and analysis to US policymakers, analyses four major votes that followed the 25 January revolution and identifies areas within Egypt where Islamists run strongest and, conversely, where non-Islamists are most competitive.
In a press briefing in the US Congress RAND will announce the publication of their new report.
The report reveals that Islamists showed their strongest performance in Upper Egypt, North Sinai and the "sparsely populated" governorates in the west, while non-Islamist parties proved popular in Cairo, Port Said, South Sinai and the Red Sea governorates.
The Delta region was described as a "contested territory," despite an overall good performance by Islamists in absolute terms.
Time, says the report, has been able to reduce the gap of popular support for Islamists:
"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," reads the report.
"However the Muslim Brotherhood 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."
Most importantly, the newly-issued document asserts that Egypt does not appear "lost" to Islamists, nor are non-Islamists "irrelevant" to the nation's future.
"Rather, Egypt appears headed toward a much more competitive political environment in which Islamists are increasingly challenged to maintain their electoral edge," the report points out.
Hence, the report anticipated that non-Islamists might have an opportunity in gaining substantial number of seats if decided to reverse their decision to boycott next parliamentary polls.
Reflections on Egyptian-US relations
On the bigger picture, RAND's report states that such conclusions about Egypt's geopolitical map can help US decision-makers understand the mechanisms of post-revolutionary politics in the country.
Notably, RAND writes about the best-case scenario, under the circumstances, for Washington's interests in Egypt:
"Perhaps the best the United States can hope for in the coming years is greater parity in the representation of political forces so as to avoid the emergence of another single-party state," posits the report.
"If this is taken as the measure of success, then the trend lines reviewed in this report offer some reason for optimism."
Islamists will eventually be enforced to share power with their ideological rivals, since the Egyptian electorate seems "not monolithic" in its voting preferences, claims the report. Also the receptive response to the non-Islamist orientation in some regions in Egypt should be kept in mind.
The report argues there is no ideal partner for the United States among the current political forces in Egypt, because the US has disagreements with both sides of the Egyptian political spectrum.
For example, Salafists hold a different position than that of the US on issues of gender equality and minority rights, while the leftist Karama Party offers the "greatest source of concern" concerning free-market principles and maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.
"US policy is to avoid interfering in Egypt’s domestic politics; any attempt to do so would likely be counterproductive because recipients would lose credibility and open themselves to being branded as a fifth column," RAND warned.
As an example, the report referred to US statements urging the NSF to participate in the next elections, which was regarded by "actors on the ground" as unwanted foreign intervention.
RAND, however, also praised the US avoidance in providing assistance programmes to certain political forces that might give one side an advantage over the other.
Georgetown University Assistant Professor of Arab Politics Samer Shehata and Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East's Director Michele Dunne will attend the RAND report announcement at the US Congress.