Islamists appeared set to win a solid majority of seats in Egypt’s first free
parliamentary election in decades, but results were delayed for the second day
after officials said not all ballots had been counted.
RELATED:Egyptians must wait another day for poll results Muslim Brotherhood says it leads Egypt's vote count
Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist group, said its new Freedom and Justice
Party (FJP) was set to win about 40 percent of seats allocated to party lists in
this week’s vote, which passed off peacefully, albeit with many irregularities.
Other estimates have put the Brotherhood’s take at close to 50% or even
The elections’ most unanticipated result, however, came from
religious fundamentalist Salafist parties, which some predict will take as many
as a quarter of all votes despite having been nonexistent just a year
“People are surprised at how strong the Islamists are showing,”
Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst at the US-based Century Foundation, told The
from Cairo. “We don’t know final results yet....
Islamists will do very well, but the final picture is murky.”
to Hanna, “It’s the Salafists who are a real, new political force. They won’t
run or rule the country, but they’ll have a real say.”
results had originally been scheduled to be released on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, but were pushed off to Friday after
officials said results from some districts had not been fully
Meanwhile, young protesters demanding an immediate end to army
rule have called a rally for Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to remember the 42
people killed in clashes with riot police last month.
Islamist success at
the polls in Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, would reinforce a trend in
North Africa, where Islamists now lead governments in Morocco and post-uprising
Tunisia following election wins in the past two months.
freely for the first time since army officers ousted the king in 1952 seem
willing to give Islamists a chance.
“We tried everyone, so why not try
Shari’a once?” asked Ramadan Abdel Fattah, a bearded civil
Parliament, the exact makeup of which will be clear only after
Egypt’s staggered voting process ends in January, may challenge the power of the
generals who took over in February after a popular uprising toppled Hosni
Mubarak, an ex-air force chief.
Al-Nour, one of several newly formed
fundamentalist Salafist parties, said on Thursday that it expects to pick up 20%
of assembly seats overall.
“In light of the media campaign against us, we
believe our results are largely acceptable,” said Youssry Hamad, Al-Nour’s
spokesman. “We are doing as well as the Muslim Brotherhood.”
liberal-leftist Egyptian Bloc has said it is on track to secure about a fifth of
votes for party lists.
Western nations are coming to accept that the
advent of democracy in the Arab world may bring Islamists to power, but they
also worry that Islamist rule in Egypt might erode social freedoms and threaten
Cairo’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
“For the first time in Egypt, we
don’t see a political intention by the state to forge the elections,” said Magdy
Abdel Halim, coordinator of an EUbacked group of election monitors. He said the
infractions observed did not affect the legitimacy of a vote held in a
“reasonably fair atmosphere.”
Egypt’s April 6 youth movement, a prime
mover in the revolt against Mubarak, said an Islamist win should not cause
“No one should worry about the victory of one list or political
current. This is democracy and this great nation will not allow anyone to
exploit it again,” its Facebook page said.
If the FJP and Al-Nour secure
the number of seats they expect, they could combine to form a solid majority
bloc, although it remains unclear whether the Brotherhood would want such an
Senior FJP official Essam el- Erian said before the vote that
Salafists, who had kept a low profile and shunned politics during Mubarak’s
30-year rule, would be “a burden for any coalition.”
The FJP might seek
other partners, such as the comparatively liberal Wafd or the Islamist Wasat
Party, set up by ex-Brotherhood members in 1996 but only licensed after
Al-Nour’s spokesman said solving Egypt’s problems might
be beyond the capabilities of one party.
“We believe a coalition
government that comprises all political streams is the best option. The burden
is too much after all these years of corruption,” he said.
fear the Muslim Brotherhood might impose Islamic curbs on a tourism-dependent
country whose 82 million people include a 10% Coptic Christian
Ali Khafagi, the leader of the FJP’s youth committee, said the
Brotherhood’s goal was to end corruption and revive the economy. A party would
have to be “mad” try to ban alcohol or force women to wear head scarves, he
The priority of the Brotherhood is likely to be economic growth to
ease poverty and convince voters it is fit to govern.
outgoing government quit during protests against army rule last month in which
42 people were killed, most near Tahrir Square, the hub of the anti- Mubarak
Kamal al-Ganzouri, asked by the army to form a “national
salvation government,” aims to complete the task in the next day or two, but
acknowledged on Wednesday that five presidential candidates had turned down
invitations to join his cabinet.
Protesters who returned to Tahrir last
month, angered by the military’s apparent reluctance to cede power, say the
generals should step aside now, instead of appointing a man of the past like
Ganzouri, 78, who was a premier for Mubarak in the 1990s.
elections are scheduled for June, after which the ruling army council is
expected to step down.
Still, few expect the military to relinquish the
privileges it has enjoyed for the better part of six decades.
to run the show where it matters to them,” Hanna said. “They do want to be
written in the constitution, and much of that hinges on budgetary independence
and [avoiding] civilian oversight.”
Following elections, the lower house
of parliament will form a 100-member constitution- drafting assembly that the
military hopes will let it avoid civilian oversight of its budget.
said the army had little interest in ruling in full glare of the public, and
every interest in retiring behind the scenes.
“They simply want to go
back to the shadows and protect their influence and interests,” he said.