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Islamists Set to Win in Egypt’s Elections

Posted on the 01 December 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Islamists set to win in Egypt’s elections

A poster for a candidate in Egypt's 2011 elections. Photocredit: Dan Lundberg[email protected]/6379810479/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Early election results for Egypt’s first Parliament – the first since Hosni Mubarak was deposed, and the first in almost half a century – show Islamists gaining a victory. The votes, which happened in a third of Egypt’s provinces, included Cairo, Port Said and the Red Sea Coast – Egypt’s more liberal areas. The Muslim Brotherhood took 40 per cent of the vote; but conservative Salafi groups could take a quarter. This would mean that Islamist groups had control of 65 per cent of parliament. The overall result, though, won’t be known till January. Coptic Christians, a minority in the country, turned out in droves to vote for the liberal parties, but reports agree that the result is mostly down to the Brotherhood’s slick and rule-bending campaign machine; whilst banned under Mubarak, it managed to become a huge charitable organisation, which many now support.

“I don’t mind saying this is not a great thing. It is not a joyous day on my end,” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egyptian born researcher at the Century Foundation in Cairo, quoted on The New York Times.

Islamism on the rise? This is bad news, reported David Kirkpatrick in The New York Times, for the liberals and the young people who started the revolution, who, in comparison to the Muslim Brotherhood, are badly organised and have many internal divisions. The fact that voting took place in the more liberal areas means that “the Islamist wave is likely to grow stronger” in more rural areas. With Islamist governments in Tunisia and Morocco, and one looking likely to form in Libya, it seems Islamism is on the rise. In Egypt, whilst the Brotherhood promises to guard individual rights, the Salafis talk of “Islamic banking, restricting the sale of alcohol,” separating boys and girls, and even “censoring” the arts. Coptic Christians are joking about leaving the country, and it’s bad news for Israel.

Bending the rules. Ben Hubbard, in an AP piece syndicated in The Guardian, said that the results didn’t necessarily reflect support for Islamist ideology. The real factors were that the Brotherhood is known for helping the poor, and for having disciplined activists, who guided people to vote on the day. Their campaign, instead of focusing on Islamist issues, was all about improvement of services. Whilst observer teams have praised the election in general, it’s clear that the Brotherhood is blurring the line “between campaigning and ‘assisting voters.’”

Look to the future. Essam El-Arian, writing in The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, said that the people of Egypt are expressing “their will and authority.” A “real democratic system” will be built. The military council needs to hand over “legislative powers to parliament”, and make it clear that governments without the confidence of parliament can’t stay in power. This is a “new phase”, in which Egypt lives by the rules of democracy. “There will be winners and losers. But the real – and only – victor is Egypt.” The building of a democratic society, along with the other Arab states affected by the Arab Spring, can only have a positive effect on the world. “We look to the future with hope. Egyptians will continue to make history.”

Don’t forget what the revolution was about. In the well-established Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram Weekly, Galal Nassar wrote that the Islamists have to choose between  ”the early eras of Islam”, ignoring “the subsequent 14 centuries of human development and the legacy of human rights and international conventions”, or “Islam of the present day.” The latter, “consistent with this 14-century old humanitarian legacy ” means “abandoning the rhetoric and nit-picking on details that ultimately void the Arab Spring of the lofty humanitarian values that inspired it – namely, freedom, equality, citizenship, social justice and prosperity.”

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