Islamists Ahead in Polls in Egyptian Elections
Unofficial tallies by political parties in Egypt suggest that Islamist parties are poised to win a clear majority in the country’s first Parliament since Hosni Mubarak was deposed. The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mainstream Islamist group, seems likely to take about 40 percent of the vote. While this result was predicted, a strong showing — as much as 25 percent of the vote — for the Salafis, ultraconservative Islamists, was not expected. The two groups of Islamists are likely to control as much as 65 percent of the seats in the Parliament.
The first round of Egypt’s elections for the lower house of Parliament began on Monday; elections will continue on December 14 and January 3. While official results are not due till January, officials have said they will release results for seats contested by individual candidates on Thursday at 7:00 pm GMT. Voting this week took place in only one-third of Egypt’s provinces and in more liberal areas including Cairo, Port Said and the Red Sea coast; it will continue in the upcoming months in more rural, and more conservative areas, where the Islamists are likely to gain more votes.
Basil Adel said that his Democratic Alliance, the main liberal organizations in Egypt, has received between 20 to 30 percent of the votes so far counted in Cairo.
Rise of Islamists After Arab Spring
Islamists have formed governments after elections in Tunisia and Morocco and are likely to play a major role in governing post-Gaddafi Libya. The result in Egypt, the largest Arab state and a US ally that is “considered a linchpin of regional stability,” suggests the rising influence of Islamists, long oppressed by authoritarian leaders with ties to the West. Egypt’s new Parliament will play a large role in drafting a new constitution, but it is not yet clear how much input the ruling military government will allow from the newly elected body:
The unexpected rise of a strong ultraconservative Islamist faction to the right of the Brotherhood is likely to shift Egypt’s cultural and political center of gravity to the right as well. Leaders of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party will likely feel obliged to compete with the ultraconservatives for Islamist voters, and at the same time will not feel the same need to compromise with liberals to form a government.
“It means that, if the Brotherhood chooses, Parliament can be an Islamists affair — a debate between liberal Islamists, moderate Islamists and conservatives Islamists, and that is it,” Michael Wahid Hanna, an Egyptian-born researcher at the Century Foundation in Cairo, said this week.
The ultraconservative Salafi parties, meanwhile, will be able to use their electoral clout to make their own demands for influence on appointments in the new government. Mr. Hanna added: “I don’t mind saying this is not a great thing. It is not a joyous day on my end.”
The Salafis have spoken of laws that would require a shift to Islamic banking, specific curricula for boys and girls, censorship of the arts and entertainment and restrictions on alcohol.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s FJP is seeking to to settle fears that it will form a coalition with the Salafist al-Nour party.
Death Toll in Pre-election Protests Rises to 43
A protester, 39-year-old Ahmed Badawy, has died after being wounded by a shotgun pellet in the stomach and a rubber bullet in the leg in clashes with police on Cairo’s Mohamed Mahmoud Street last week. 43 have now died in the protests that preceded Monday’s elections. The US embassy in Cairo has also said that it could block future exports of US-made teargas to Egypt after it was revealed that, in the wake of the days of street battles in Cairo, the Egyptian ministry of interior had ordered 21 tons of teargas from the US. During the protests, numerous tear canisters were thrown into civilians, leading to many serious injuries.
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Photo of Day 2 of elections in Egypt by lilianwagdy