Originally published at Rubin Reports.
Western observers, including the U.S. government view the situation in Egypt as improving. Actually, it’s getting worse, partly due to U.S. policy. In April, that will become even more obvious. Egyptian parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 22. Supposedly, the Muslim Brotherhood faces a setback. But that either isn’t true or doesn’t matter. On one hand, the Islamists as a whole are likely to emerge even stronger and more radical. On the other hand, if the non-Islamist coalition boycotts the election, as it has announced, the Brotherhood and the current regime will be a lot stronger.
Originally, I intended to write that there will no doubt be an assumption in Western reportage that if the “opposition” does participate and does better and the Brotherhood does worse that means moderation is gaining.
But by the time this is being published the mainstream media’s claims that things are going great had already begun. For example, here’s how the New York Times explains it all to you:
With the elections scheduled to begin in April, the Islamists who dominated the 2011-12 parliamentary and presidential votes appear more vulnerable than at any time since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago. But what possible reasons are there to believe this? There is no evidence that the Brotherhood or Salafists collectively will get a lot fewer votes. The most serious Egyptian poll shows that the Brotherhood might get just under 50 percent of the vote! Obviously that’s very tentative two months before the elections. So what did they get last time? Answer: 37 percent of the vote and about half the seats. True, this time the Salafist vote will be split so the two together can be expected to get fewer than the 64 percent of the vote and almost 75 percent of the seats they won the first time. But a large majority of Egyptians can be expected to vote for an Islamist regime. And if the moderates boycott, the Islamists could receive 90 percent of the seats!
The Islamists’ real problem is that there are now four Islamist parties, varying from moderately radical to incredibly radical here’s the list:
The Strong Egypt Party headed by Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Fotouh is presented as a moderate Islamist and will no doubt be the favorite of the U.S. Columnist and Editorialist Party. Yet, one might ask, if Fotouh is so moderate why was he endorsed in the first round of the presidential election by radical Brotherhood guru Yusuf al-Qaradawi and the Salafist al-Nur Party?
To keep an open mind, Fotouh is more moderate than the others and he opposed the constitution drafted by the Brotherhood. It is possible he could form an alliance with the National Salvation Front. But there’s something misleading here, too. Fotouh got an impressive 17 percent in the presidential election. Yet wasn’t this vote due almost completely to non-moderate Salafists who just didn’t want to back the Brotherhood presidential candidate in the first round after their own candidate was disqualified? If so, Fotouh’s party will be a failure.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. They received 37 percent of the votes and about half the seats in the original parliamentary election. If the National Salvation Front doesn’t boycott, the Brotherhood might lose seats but if the moderates don’t run in the election the Brotherhood will get even more seats.
The main Salafist party, al-Nur. This party won 27.8 percent in the original parliamentary election, but its candidate for president was disqualified. Al-Nur varies between critical support of the Brotherhood (“we’re all Islamists”) to just plain criticism (“the Brotherhood isn’t Islamist enough!”). Al-Nur would willingly become the Brotherhood’s coalition partner or at least support the regime from outside.
The People’s Party. The most radical forces in al-Nur have split from it, considering al-Nur to be too soft on the Brotherhood. They viewed the constitution–which provides for a transition to a Sharia state–too subtle.
So how will these parties split the Islamist vote? And will al-Nur and the People’s parties back Mursi for all practical purposes on the fundamental transformation of Egypt into a Sharia, Islamist state? Even if the two Salafist parties demand more, that doesn’t mean they will vote against the government to bring it down—they know they cannot win a majority on their own—and they aren’t going to ally with the hated “secularists.”
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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