Islamists against Islamists

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Amani Maged, October 20, 2011.

After the comfort of the embrace of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, the largest electoral coalition so far, their spirit concord has begun to unravel. Whereas until just a week ago, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party had succeeded to contain or, at least, postpone the historic animosity between it and the Salafis and had struck common cause with Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the Islamists have begun to fall out, shattering their electoral understanding.   

It all seemed to happen from one day to the next. When the Salafist Nour (Light) Party saw that it would come out of the party without prizes, which is to say that its candidates would not top the lists, it broke away from the coalition and formed a list of its own. As a result, the largest and most popular Salafist party now plans to contend 70 per cent of the seats that will be elected by proportional lists and, following talks with other parties, it will soon reveal the number of single-ticket seats it will contend.

In spite of the tender age of the Nour Party, which only emerged after the revolution from an ideological trend that shunned political involvement and largely regarded the electoral process as a heresy, its leader, Emad Abdel-Ghafour maintains that it is better prepared for the elections than most other parties … //

… The natural consequence of this development will be to divide the Islamist vote. Nor will the Freedom and Justice Party be the only party adversely affected. As Zahran put it, the rifts that have been fracturing the Islamist camp will be detrimental to all factions, from the Muslim Brothers through the Salafis and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya to the Wasat (Centre) Party and the Islamist Action and Arab Unity Party. In order to avert this prospect, he adds, these parties urgently need to summon the resolve to set aside factional differences in the interest of promoting their collective Islamist project and, more practically, to develop modern organisational and coordinating mechanisms commensurate with the demands of the new experience they are engaged in.

Looking a little further ahead, the electoral rivalry between the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood, if it continues, would certainly affect the shape of the forthcoming parliament. Will it wear the Brotherhood mantel or the Salafi turban? Or will the elections bring other surprises? (full text).

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