The PJ Tatler

Egypt: Bad news, less bad news, and maybe a little good news

Pew pushed out a new poll on attitudes in Egypt late yesterday. It resembles previous polls, in that Egyptians profess to want more Islam in their legal system, as they have professed over the past few decades.

About six-in-ten (62%) think laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Quran. However, only 31% of Egyptian Muslims say they sympathize with Islamic fundamentalists, while nearly the same number (30%) say they sympathize with those who disagree with the fundamentalists, and 26% have mixed views on this question. Those who disagree with fundamentalists are almost evenly divided on whether the treaty with Israel should be annulled, while others favor ending the pact by a goodly margin.

Egypt’s second most popular political movemenet? The Muslim Brotherhood.

Three-in-four express a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 37% have a very favorable opinion of this organization, which has been a major presence in Egyptian society for decades, although it was officially banned from politics throughout the Mubarak era. Support for the Brotherhood is somewhat less intense among lower-income Egyptians (26% very favorable) than among those in middle- (41%) and higher- (43%) income categories.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA head who enabled Iran’s nuclear program from that post and has since aligned himself with the Brother hood, enjoys a 57% approval rating. And a plurality of Egyptians want a more distant relationship with the US than the two countries have had over the past few decades. Fifty-four percent want Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel annulled.

The poll’s only real good news is actually muddled: On the one hand, the secular military gets a strong 88% approval rating. But 40% of Egyptians are up for grabs between the 31% who support Islamic fundamentalism, and the 30% who don’t. Call that 40% the swing vote; they will end up determining which parties and figures gain power in this fall’s elections. But given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood remains the most organized political group in the country, and is among the most popular as well, it won’t be a surprise to see that swing vote swing the Brotherhood right into power.