In Egypt’s 2011-12 parliamentary elections reactionary religious parties swept the board.
The Muslim Brotherhood (standing as the Freedom and Justice Party) won 47.2% of the vote and 235 seats out of 498. Salafist candidates won 123 seats with 30% of the vote (with the al-Nur party winning 107 seats). A depressing result for socialists, secularists and democrats. But what will happen in Egypt’s Presidential election on 23-24 May?
Under Egypt’s provisional constitution the President appoints the Prime Minister and has a lot of power.
Last month the Constitutional Assembly, dominated by Islamists, was suspended after a court ruled it was unrepresentative of Egyptian society — lacking in women, youth and minorities. That adds another complication to an already fraught political situation.
According to (perhaps not reliable) opinion polls the front runners for President are Amr Moussa, a candidate from (but not of) the old regime and Abdel Moneim Abu Fotouh who, since leaving the Brotherhood, has taken a “moderate Islamist” stance.
An election of a more “personalised” nature means both of these candidates are trying, to one degree or another, to have more heterogeneous appeal.
Moussa has said Egyptian laws should be based on Islamic teachings but also said they could not be exactly applied to Coptic Christians. Abul-Fotouh has said he is not for a theocracy.
There are 13 candidates in total including the liberal Khalid Ali, Hisham al-Bastawisi of the Tajammu Party and Abu al-Izz al-Hariri of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party (Nasserist in origin with which the group linked to the British SWP, the Revolutionary Socialists have been allied). The Socialist Popular Alliance Party is now in the Revolution Must Continue Alliance and that includes ex-Brotherhood youth.
The background to this election are splits in the Brotherhood.
Since February 2011 the pressure from the Salafists, generational differences, dissatisfaction with the Brotherhood’s relationship with the army (which in the form of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still holds power in Egypt), participation as a “party” in politics, and adaptation to Egypt’s limited democratic politics (as opposed to that dictated by religious teachings) has caused led to these splits. The splits have been:
* The formation under Abou el-Ala Madi of the Wasat (Centre) Party, which models itself on the Turkish Justice and Development Party.
* The formation of the Renaissance Party by the Brotherhood’s deputy Supreme Guide, Dr Muhammad Habib. (Their candidate in the election, Dr Muhammad Selim al-Awa is vying for Brotherhood votes).
* And Abu-Futouh himself, a former member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Committee, decided to run for President without permission. He has declared himself to be the candidate of the Brotherhood’s youth.
Meanwhile other Brotherhood people are joining up with Salafists.
Under pressure from the array of candidates vying for Brotherhood votes, at the last minute, the Brotherhood itself put up a candidate (having said it would not). After their first choice was disqualified from standing, Mohammad Mursi became the candidate. One dimension therefore in the election is competition among the Islamists for authenticity of faithfulness. Mursi has stressed the slogan “Islam is the solution”.
The Salafist candidate was barred from standing and the Salafists are backing Abu-Futouh.
Competition between the Islamists may give one of other of those candidates associated with the old regime, including the ex-Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, an advantage.
Meanwhile demonstrations against SCAF, ending in severe repression and arrests, continue. These have involved a broad political spectrum.
Since Mubarak was ousted nearly 12,000 people have been tried and convicted through military courts.