Results from student’s union elections at universities throughout Egypt this week have shown a significant decrease in support for the Muslim Brotherhood from last year. The elections took place at 21 of Egypt’s 22 public universities, with the University of Port Said unable to take part due to deadly clashes within the city.
Independent candidates and candidates representing other political parties won 66% of the overall vote at the public universities, defeating the Muslim Brotherhood representatives who gained just 34% of the votes. This is half of what they achieved in 2012, in which the party gained a majority and presidency in 12 of the 19 public universities.
These are the initial stages of elections which will decide the council of the national student’s union for the coming academic year. The public universities hold 44 seats within the Student’s Union of Egypt – a president and a deputy from each university. The other 6 seats are divided between Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and private universities and institutions. As a result of this year’s elections, student’s unions across the country will witness a decline in Muslim Brotherhood representation. It must be said that Muslim Brotherhood candidates still gained the highest percentage of any political party within the elections.
Despite that mainstream English-language publications have failed for the most part to report on this development, its significance should not be underestimated. These results are a clear indication that support for the Muslim Brotherhood is dwindling among young people in Egypt, who have played a key role in the country’s unfinished and ongoing revolution.
For many in Egypt, however, these results do not come as a surprise. It is widely perceived that the Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohamed Morsi have failed to achieve the aims of the revolution, which remain at the forefront of political thought within Egyptian society.
These results also bring another issue to mind, which is the legitimacy of the results of the Muslim Brotherhood’s highly controversial constitutional referendum in December last year. The referendum ostensibly suggested that much of Egypt still supported the party and Morsi’s claim to unlimited powers over the judiciary system and ultimately the people.
This was contradictory to the apparent widespread opposition to the constitution in the weeks leading up to the referendum and indeed after it, when the country witnessed large demonstrations and an atmosphere of general discontent.
During this period, commentators in Egypt and abroad heavily criticized the referendum and, as the turnout for the referendum shows, it soon became apparent that a large number of citizens had decided to boycott it altogether.
Perhaps the results of the student’s union elections offer a better indication of the level of support for the Muslim Brotherhood within Egypt than the constitutional referendum.
Young people in Egypt make up one quarter of the total population. Whilst many of these are not at university, the fact that students at so many of the public universities have taken a stance against the Muslim Brotherhood could reflect a general dissatisfaction within society.
If the results of the student’s union elections are anything to go by, then it is likely that the Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohamed Morsi’s days are numbered.