Grasping at Straw Polls : تي بي يي للترجمة

poll position

Fahmy Howeidy has long been something of a role model to TBE. Not necessarily because we agree with all of his opinions, though we do sometimes. And not because of his status as what might be termed the pre-eminent voice of the “respectable (ie anti-normalization, pro-democracy)” Islamist opposition in Egypt, which we don’t covet. (For those interested in learning more about Howeidy, a while back Arabic Media Shack hosted an impromptu debate about Howeidy’s influence and value as a columnist.) Rather it is because, while TBE is a blog that sometimes pretends to be a newspaper, Howeidy writes what amounts to blog posts, to be found most days on the back page of al-Shorouq. This is not in any way to denigrate Howeidy, and we are most assuredly not of the opinion that blogging is less valuable than print. If anything, quite the opposite is true, or at least that’s what our reading habits tell us.

Today, we translated Howeidy’s column about an aborted opinion survey undertaken by the NDP (or some faction thereof) to determine the depth (or shallowness, as it were) of support for Gamal Mubarak’s role in Egyptian politics. Longtime readers will remember that we previously translated an article from al-Shorouq in which they broke the story of the poll’s existence.

From al-Shorouk’s Sunday, October 4 edition:

The Mystery of the Uncompleted Survey

We were informed that the opinion survey about the future of Gamal Mubarak undertaken by the NDP during Eid al-Fitr was discontinued, but we don’t know the reason why. However, we understand why the poll was circulated in the first place.

It is true that al-Shorouq, which published the news in its Wednesday, September 30 edition, mentioned that only 360 people out of a sample of 4,000 responded and were supportive. Thus the level of support topped off at 11%, though that alone is not reason enough for the stoppage.

That is supported by the fact that the poll was supposed to take place in eight Egyptian governorates, but those who undertook it contented themselves with three governorates then discontinued it. It seems that they prefer that it be said that the poll was not completed. That opens the door to the possibility of changing it when it is completed. That situation lessens the pressure of the same rate occurring in the other governorates, then making it known amongst the elite that 89% of the Egyptian people don’t welcome succession and don’t wish to see our friend become president.

There is a precedent for this fear, being that this result is close to the results of a poll, concluded four years ago, on Gamal Mubarak’s chances and the level of his popularity. The National Center for Social Research commissioned that poll in secret. The results, which showed that only 10% of the poll’s sample supported or welcomed Mubarak, were kept secret.

Faced with the fact that the first results showed his level of support around 11%, that it did not increase over the last four years except by one percent, despite all the cheerleading and polishing undertaken by the media, we cannot exclude the possibility that the results frustrated the poll’s supervisors, so they decided to cancel it altogether.

There is another possibility, that they were inspired by an interview President Mubarak gave to American television during his last visit to Washington, in which he said that his son Gamal had not initiated a conversation with him on the subject his succession to power. So if he had not spoken about such an important matter, it is not improbable that the group attending to the matter had initiated the poll without the knowledge of the president.

But when the news reached him and the poll was still ongoing, he asked that it be stopped and not be completed.

There are two other possibilities we cannot exclude in interpreting the decision to stop. The first is that the initial results provoked an outcry from the “conservatives” on the policies committee [the NDP body that Gamal Mubarak heads], saying, “Since when did the people of Egypt have a say in who gets to govern their affairs?” And because the question was disapproving so our friend who posed the question went on to say that in the age of kings the people did not have a say in their rulers because power was inherited in the family of Muhammad Ali Basha.

And after the revolution Gamal abd al-Nasir led because he led the revolution, and after him came his deputy, Anwar Sadat, and after Sadat was killed Mubarak came to power because he was considered Sadat’s deputy, so that being deputy to the president remains equivalent to being Crown Prince.

If these tradtions endured during the monarchical and republican eras, the idea of an opinion poll becomes an innovation to throw those traditions aside and squander the situation in Egypt, whether monarchy or republic. That opinion seemed convincing and led to cancelling the planned survey.

The second possibility is that the stoppage was due to pressure from the interior ministry, first because the matter was considered interference in their jurisdiction, as they consider themselves entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding inheritance, and also because they saw in the poll an attack on their power. That is, they possess trained elements and programmable devices to measure public opinion and count votes in any poll or election before it even begins, without the need for the “primitive” methods of those that ask people questions and take their answers to those question – and God knows best.


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Filed under Politics, Translations

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