Thursday, December 01, 2011

Islamists Looking Strong in Egyptian Elections

In the first free elections in Egypt since the post-revolutionary elections of 1952, record numbers of Egyptians came out to cast their vote in hopes of change and progress after the overthrow of ex-dictator Hosni Mubarak. The recent election was one of three to be held by January 2012, in order to fill seats in the lower house of Parliament. The upper house Parliament elections will follow shortly after this round of three is over. Although no official results have been released at this time, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Freedom and Justice Party are predicted to win up to 40% and a plurality of the seats in Parliament. The Al-Nour party, an ultraconservative Islamist party, is predicted to take up to 20% of the seats when all is said and done. This will mean that the majority of Egypt's newly formed Parliament will be led by Islamic parties that are pushing for Shariah Law and more conservative, non-secular leadership.
It is difficult to predict how this majority will affect Egypt. The majority of protesters in Tahrir Square throughout this year have supported ideals such as civil liberties, secularism, and democracy, while those in power in the future will probably stand for just the opposite. The crowds in Tahrir do not necessarily represent the feelings and aspirations of all Egyptians, but they play an important role in the formation of the new government. The protesters now realize the power they wield in Egypt. Their protests in Tahrir draw international attention, they push foreign heads of state to take positions on difficult issues, and they force the heads of the Egyptian government to take immediate action on important issues. If the newly elected government of Egypt is led by these conservative parties, they must realize the power the protesters of Cairo possess.
There has been some speculation that the Freedom and Justice Party and the Al-Nour may join forces in order to maintain a solid majority, and not just a plurality, in Parliament and to counter more liberal parties like that of the Egyptian Bloc. The idea of the FJP and the Al-Nour parties joining frightens many people of Egypt and leaders abroad. Ultraconservatives in the Al-Nour party have publicy announced plans to ban alcohol, western clothing, and western media (movies, music). The Muslim Brotherhood have announced that they have no plans to implement bans on alcohol or western attire and if the parties are kept separate, this is probably the more realistic outcome. The problem if the parties join would be possible ultraconservative leadership, then implementation of such laws. If these laws (or laws like these) pass then Egypt will be hard pressed to reach tourism levels equal to that of Mubarak. Laws like these will repel western tourists from traveling to Egypt, and in turn, hurt the already struggling economy.
It seems for now, there are no solid plans for the two parties' merger. For the sake of another year of angry Cairenes occupying Tahrir Square, let's hope it stays that way.

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