The first round of parliamentary elections in Egypt has been completed. The elections to the Egyptian parliament (the lower house or People’s Assembly and the upper house or the Shura Council – the Senate) are held in three rounds. First round: from November 28 till December 5, second round: from December 14 till December 21 and the third round from January 3 till January 10, 2012. After that, on January 22, the election to the Shura Council is to take place. The formation of the new Egyptian parliament will be completed in March 2012.
A week before the elections, several Egyptian cities, including Cairo and Alexandria saw new protests campaigns demanding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (the SCAF) hand over power to the civilian institutions. The protests started after the SCAF had published the draft of the Constitutional Charter, under which the army was actually beyond the control of the parliament and retained power authorization. The groups, which took part in protests campaigns, were mainly the same groups which had forced president Mubarak to resign in other words – these were members of the youth movements formed in the period of the revolution of January 25th, as well as part of liberal-democratic and left parties and part of Islamist organizations. But the main forces of the Islamist movement, first of all the “Muslim Brotherhood”, dissociated themselves from protests and did not take part in the campaigns.
The demonstrations demanding that the army immediately hand over power to the civil presidential council grew into severe clashes between protesters and army units, in which more than 40 people were killed and hundreds wounded, including servicemen. The mass media called the clashes “the second wave of the Egyptian revolution”. In his address to the nation the head of the military leadership marshal Tantawi confirmed the army’s readiness to hand over power to civil institutions. He also аaccepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and announced the appointment of Kamal Al Ganzouri (the politician who was popular among Egyptian people back in the period of Mubarak’s rule) as the new Prime Minister. This normalized the situation to some extent.
The disorders did not impede the parliamentary elections, which began on November 28, as it was planned. One third of Egypt’s provinces (9 of 27) including the largest cities of Cairo and Alexandria took part in the elections. The evident success of the parties representing political Islam was the first outcome of the elections. The Freedom and Justice Party (Hizb al-hurriya wa al -'adala), which is a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood association, won most of the seats - up to 40 %. It was followed by the Al-Nour (the Light) party, representing Salafi Islamist movement. The associations of liberal-democratic and left parties received smaller number of mandates.
After the events of January 25th about 50 political parties were formed in Egypt. For reference there were only 24 parties under Mubarak. Also several blocs and coalitions were formed. 15 social-political movements, including liberal, secular and centrist parties and public organizations, as well as the Islamic Sufi party, united into the Egyptian bloc. One of the bloc’s goals, according to the statements of its leaders, is to prevent the victory of the “Muslim Brotherhood” at the parliamentary elections”. In its turn, five socialist parties and movements formed the Coalition of Socialist Forces. Many former members of the former ruling National-Democratic Party (disbanded in April 2011), who still have influence in provinces, also took part in the parliamentary elections as members of other parties. These parties are the Egyptian Civil Party, the Unity, the Party of Freedom, the Egyptian National Party, the Party for Egypt’s Development. New secular organizations such as “Coalition of the Youth of Revolution”, “We All Khaled Saeed”, “January 25th Youth Movement”, “Revolutionary Socialists”, “National Association for Changes” are also trying to play a more significant role in the country’s political life.
The results of the first round of elections reflected in unbiased manner the correlation of forces in the camp of political Islam in Egypt. The leaders are “The Muslim Brotherhood” association, its wing “Young Muslim brothers” and the “Party of Freedom and Justice” they established, which is chaired by Muhammad Mursi. In its turn the Salafi movement, which emerged after the collapse of the Mubarak regime also gave birth to political parties such as: “Al Nour” (the Light) chaired by Emad Abdel-Gafour, Al-Asala (Authenticity) chaired by General Adel abd al-Maqsoud Afify. The latter party is supported in particular by a prominent Salafi preacher Mohamed Abdel Maksoud Afii and Sheikh Mohamed Hassan.
“The Brothers” set up their -election coalition “the Democratic Alliance for Egypt”, in which they tried first of all to unite with the Salafi movement and a number of secular parties. But longstanding differences with Salafi representatives who are more Orthodox Muslims in comparison with the Brothers, as well as disagreements on the list of candidates led to the withdrawal of Salafi politicians from the coalition and their independent participation in the elections.
It’s remarkable that the coalition with the Party of Freedom and Justice (Muslim Brotherhood) was formed not only by the parties representing political Islam but also such parties as Party of reforms and revival, liberal democratic and left parties such as “Tomorrow”, “Labor party”, “Liberal party”, “Arab socialistic Egypt”, “Dignity”. The Dignity (Karama) party is chaired by Hamdeen Sabahi, one of the longstanding followers of Nasser’s ideology.
The main goals of the Dignity party are social justice and the return of Egypt’s leading role in the Arab Muslim world. Hamdeen Sabahi plans to run for presidency.
The alliance of the Egyptian political Islam with liberal-democratic and left forces shows significant doctrinal evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood. At least on the level of political programs the demands of the Brothers almost coincide with the demands of most of the democratic parties. The new generation leaders of the Brothers are mainly the representatives of well-educated intellectuals.
The success of the parties representing political Islam in the first round of the parliamentary elections in Egypt deserves attention. New political forces, which were formed after the revolution of January 25th and which are not linked with corrupt regime of Mubarak, enjoy people’s trust. It is quite likely that they will manage to find common language with the Egyptian intellectuals who are the most experienced in politics in the Arab world and they will manage to build more equitable society based on traditions of the Islamic culture…