As Egyptians go to the polls to choose the first president following the January 25 Revolution, speculations are rife as to how voters in Egypt chose their candidates. For experts, it is more emotional and cultural rather than political.
Egyptians are very smart, yet they are also very emotional and therefore can be easily swayed, said professor of psychology Mohamed al-Mahdi.
“I don’t think Egyptians read candidates’ programs,” he told Al Arabiya’s Presidential Candidate. “They focus more on the candidate’s charisma and ability to affect them emotionally.”
Egyptian voters, Mahdi added, also base their choice on the candidate’s past more than his future plans.
“For them, the candidate’s past indicates how conscientious he will be in the future and how patriotic he is.”
Religion, Mahdi pointed out, plays a major role in people’s emotional choices.
“Christian voters will avoid Islamist candidates unlike religious Muslim voters or those who support the Islamic project.”
In addition, Mahdi said, Egyptians are affected by what they hear from people around them especially right before the vote.
“Candidates’ campaigns make use of this by talking to people a lot as election time nears.”
Sociologist Hassanein Keshk agreed with Mahdi and stated that Egyptian voters can change their mind depending on what they hear.
“This can happen on their way to the polling station or while they are standing in the queue waiting for their turn to vote,” he said.
Keshk added that voting in Egypt depends to a great extent on the age group.
“Voters above 40 always look for the candidate who they think will restore security and stability while younger voters care more about the candidate who will achieve the goals of the revolution. It is this second group that is bound to surprise us.”
Buying votes with money and/or food, Keshk noted, does not have the same effect as it did at the time of the parliamentary elections.
“Muslim Brotherhood candidates have always been skillful at reaching poverty-stricken candidates and giving them food and other items to secure their votes.”
However, Keshk said, this will change in presidential elections owing to the performance of Islamists in the parliament.
“Voters will no longer be emotionally manipulated through commodities given to them by candidates and many of them will not choose Islamists.”
Keskh added that despite being an emotional people, Egyptians have started gaining awareness in the time that preceded the elections thanks to the media.
“Through offering the people the backgrounds of all candidates and conducting interviews with them, the media helped make people’s decisions not entirely emotional.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)