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A recent poll showing that only 15 percent of Egyptians back the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was dismissed by the group’s leaders on Monday as inaccurate and unreflective of the group’s popularity.
“We are not concerned about the percentage suggested in these polls. However, we believe that our popularity is bigger than that,” Mahmoud Hussein, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
“Most of these polls are usually conducted within [limited] circles, so they tend not to reflect the truth,” added Hussein.
On Monday, the international opinion polling firm Abu Dhabi Gallup unveiled the results of a recent poll of post-uprising Egypt.
The results were based on face-to face interviews with 1000 Egyptians over 15 years of age across the country. The poll showed that the Muslim Brotherhood had the support of 15 percent of the survey group, the dissolved National Democratic Party 10 percent, the liberal Wafd Party 9 percent, and the newly launched Wasat Party 5 percent.
The poll did not explain why the firm selected these four parties while ignoring the rest of Egypt’s 24 parties, a number which looks set to increase as newly-created parties hope to take their place in post-Mubarak Egypt’s rejuvenated politics.
While the Brotherhood garnered the highest percentage in the poll, the results contradict the widely held view that the group has strong backing and is poised for a large victory in upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
Mohamed Shams, a Muslim Brotherhood youth leader, also views the results as inaccurate. The 23-year-old electric engineer puts the Muslim Brotherhood’s popularity at no less than 30 percent, though he is unable to substantiate that number.
“However, this does not mean they can get the same percentage of seats in parliamentary elections,” says Shams.
“In parliamentary elections, the Muslim Brotherhood's popularity is not tested against that of other parties. It is family and tribal ties and candidates’ personalities that determine the [winners],” says Shams, adding that his group can garner between 15 and 20 percent of seats in a fair poll.
Shams bases his prediction of the Brotherhood’s electoral potential on a study conducted after the 2005 parliamentary elections.
Despite an official ban, the Muslim Brotherhood succeeded in establishing itself as the most organized opposition force under former President Hosni Mubarak. In 2005, the group chalked up an unprecedented victory by garnering 20 percent of parliamentary seats and emerging as the largest opposition bloc in the People’s Assembly.
As soon as Mubarak resigned, the group announced the formation of a new political party, the Freedom and Justice Party, which was established in part to allow the Brotherhood to circumvent laws preventing the formation of parties based on religious affiliation.
On Monday, a judicial committee approved the official registration of the Freedom and Justice Party, which the group says will compete for up to 50 percent of parliamentary seats in the upcoming elections.
Secular groups have urged the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to postpone elections until they can build strong support to compete with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Khali al-Anani, a political scientist with Durham University, voices similar doubts over the accuracy of the poll. Nevertheless, he holds that the suggested percentage remains high in light of the fact that only a minority of Egyptians vote in elections.
Although nearly 45 million Egyptians are eligible voters, the actual electorate was estimated at almost 18 million in the March referendum on military-backed constitutional amendments. Although the turnout hardly exceeded 40 percent, it was still unprecedented.
Under Mubarak, the turnout hardly exceeded 20 percent, with most voters staying away from polls, which were usually marred by violence and vote rigging.
It remains to be seen if the turnout will increase in upcoming elections. Ninety percent of Gallup’s sample said they would vote in the presidential elections scheduled for December. However, the poll did not show the percentage of Egyptians who said they would cast their ballot in parliamentary elections in September.