In Islamist Bastion, Support Ebbs for Egypt’s Brotherhood
Mohamed Salamah used to vote with the Muslim Brotherhood. But in Saturday’s referendum on the Islamist-backed constitution, Mr. Salamah says he is voting against it, mainly because he no longer trusts the movement.
“They aren’t even doing anything very Islamic,” said Mr. Salamah, a 24-year-old waiter in a cafe in Al Talbeya, a working-class neighborhood in Giza across the Nile from Cairo that was an Islamist stronghold in previous votes. “They are just doing things that aren’t very competent.”
Throughout the neighborhood, both loyal supporters and critics of the Brotherhood described a deep erosion in the group’s street-level support. That was evident, they said, even before the low turnout and narrow margin in last weekend’s first round of voting on what residents here call “the Brotherhood constitution.”
The results so far appear to have surprised leaders of the Brotherhood and their opposition. And even if the draft constitution is approved, as expected, on Saturday in the second half of the vote, the new questions about the charter’s popularity and the Brotherhood’s mandate could prolong Egypt’s political turbulence and, as a result, defer badly needed economic reforms as well.
Residents here and around Cairo say the damage to the Brotherhood’s popularity is unrelated to its religious ideology. It reflects a consistent trio of complaints: confusing economic policies of the Brotherhood-led government, a near-monopoly on power and civilian supporters’ use of force against opponents in a street battle two weeks ago. Even so, many say the Brotherhood remains the most potent political force, in part because of the incoherence of the opposition, which has often focused on accusing the Brotherhood of imposing religious rule.