During Morsi’s first hundred days in office, Baseera conducted three opinion polls on presidential job approval ratings, in which Morsi enjoyed high approval. Seventy-eight percent of respondents approve of his performance, while only 15 percent disapprove. Seven percent weren’t sure. But since then, his ratings have dropped significantly.
Many of those who oppose Islamists, along with some political analysts, viewed the percentage as significantly elevated, especially when taking into account that Morsi won with only 52 percent in the presidential elections.
In one of the final opinion polls at the end of the first hundred days, respondents were asked a hypothetical question as to whether they would re-elect the president. The results showed that 58 percent said they would re-elect him, while 18 percent said they wouldn’t. Twenty-four percent said either they were unsure or that their decision depended on the other candidates. At that time, the 58 percent who approved of him is higher than the percentage of votes he won during in the presidential polls.
The gap between the people who voted for Morsi and those who are satisfied with his performance after the first hundred days could be explained as follows: Egyptians were satisfied with Morsi adoption of new approaches in Egypt’s foreign policy, reflected in a series of trips abroad. These approaches were also reflected in some of the president’s sentimental statements that brought to mind a pivotal regional role for Egypt.
As for the sudden changes he had made within the commanders of the armed forces at a time when the army’s image was suffering badly, such a move appeased a wide range of Egyptians. Some see a similarity between Morsi’s move to sack top army leaders on August 12, 2012, and what former President Anwar Sadat did in his Corrective Revolution on May 15, 1971, when he sacked top Nasserist figures from the regime.
Moreover, wide swaths of Egyptians who favor President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood thought the Egyptian president had the right to enjoy a honeymoon or grace period before holding him accountable.
Polling from the next hundred days, in contrast, demonstrates that the key juncture in the president’s popularity curve occurred after he issued his controversial constitutional declaration of November 22, in which he shielded his decisions from judicial review, causing sharp polarization and effectively dividing Egyptian society into two factions.
At that time, five months after Morsi took office, approval ratings dropped significantly to 57 percent—21 percentage points down from the his rating he at the end of the first hundred days. Later, approval ratings increased to 63 percent after he backtracked on some of the provisions in his controversial constitutional declaration. Egyptians sighed with relief after this move, though it partially repaired the damage caused by the declaration.
Furthermore, with such a divided scene, even some of the opinion polls that tackled non-political issues were also politically polarized. Among these survery was the poll that was conducted to show the attitudes of Egyptians over Egypt getting the $4.8 billion IMF loan.
Results were quite surprising, since they showed an overwhelming approval rating towards the loan from Morsi’s supporters. Such a position reflects the predominance of political commitment of the president’s supporters over the claims that the loan was kind of usury, prohibited by Sharia, as the same supporters had claimed in the past.
Similarly, the opposition refused the loan, a stance that is engulfed with a spirit of hostility against Morsi rather than judging the loan fairly (or logically).
Many have warned that such an exasperating, polarized political situation would hinder the achievement of any minimum consensus, not only for major political issues such as the constitution and parliamentary elections, but also towards issues such as economic policies, the application of principles of social justice, governance building and the reformation of the educational system, in which differences are not that severe, , for example, compared with issues of drafting the constitution.
Egypt has entered the third hundred days in which the country was severely split between attempts by the ruling majority to impose a fait accompli, without paying attention to the growing popular discontent in the street. Meanwhile the opposition is maneuvering in an attempt to prove that it can’t be ignored and that it can create a political stalemate, even if it doesn’t have the absolute majority in the street.
The beginning of the third hundred days was marked with the organized appearance of the opposition represented in the array of liberal and leftist parties that formed the National Salvation Front (NSF). For a moment, the politically polarized opposition seemed to be generating a common platform.
It was clear that such an organized opposition could exploit the deteriorated economic situation to reach out to a large swath of Egyptians after it successfully reached out to the elite, who felt discontent with the political failures of the ruling Islamists.
In light of these developments, Baseera conducted a public opinion poll on the NSF, the country’s leading opposition coalition. The results were striking, since it showed that just over a third of Egyptians — 35 percent — had never heard of the NSF, and half of those aware of the NSF oppose it.
Similarly, the February poll showed that Morsi’s popularity had hit a record low, with presidential job approval ratings dropping to 49 percent for the first time. The drop also occurred in the percentage of those who would re-elect President Morsi if elections were held tomorrow, which declined to 35 percent, while 47 percent said that they wouldn’t elect him.
Here lies a dilemma: The politically polarized situation, which dominated the second hundred days, did not continue, and had not been resolved in favor of one of the factions. Rather, an empty space in the political landscape was created. Egypt experienced a honeymoon period and later a political polarization period, and now suffers from a political vacuum.
This begs the question,: What will happen in the next 100 days? Will the presidency be able to restore its declining popularity and fill the political void under such economic and security challenges, as well as the termination of dialogue with the opposition?
Will the NSF reach out to the ordinary citizen and break the isolation that might result from its elitist discourse, which many Egyptians view as a platform that doesn’t address their goals?
Will other Islamists, such as Salafis, be able to fill the void and stand up in order to become the more successful political alternative?
Will the revolutionary forces be able to regroup in order to restore the role they played in the revolution that they made, but from which they were unable to reap the fruit of their labor?
Will the militray find itself responsible for seeking a soultion by intervening if the politcal void increases, the security situation deteriorates, and national security becomes threatened?
Magued Osman is the CEO and managing director of the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research, Baseera. This article originally appeared in Al-Shorouk.