Monday 20 January 2020

Muslim Brotherhood party surges into big lead in Egyptian election

Richard Spencer in Cairo

ISLAMIST parties will dominate Egypt's first post-revolution parliament after taking most votes in early results from the first round of elections last night.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which is backed by the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, is leading the count in most areas, including its two most important cities, Cairo and Alexandria, with up to 40 per cent of the vote.

More unexpected was the apparent success of the FJP's radical rival, Nour, which represents a movement of Salafis inspired by the puritanical political Islam of Saudi Arabia.

The party's lack of previous involvement in political campaigning had been viewed as a handicap. But it may have won as much as 10pc of the vote, according to some estimates, challenging the main liberal coalition for second place.

The early results suggest the various Islamist parties will form an overall majority in the parliament.

The final results, which will not emerge until after the third and final round of voting in the new year, may differ greatly from the early stages, particularly after the individual candidates who make up a third of seats are subjected to run-offs.

In these seats, voters supporting the wide variety of liberal, secular and moderate parties may coalesce against the Islamists.

But there has been no doubting the triumphant mood of the Muslim Brotherhood this week, as it celebrates a moment of electoral victory after 80 years of almost constant repression.

Its rigidly managed and hierarchical structure, which has contributed to apprehension among Arab governments and secular groups, has made it a formidable foe.

It has also persuaded many people that it is more likely to rule competently than its idealistic but often divided liberal rivals.

"I believe they will be very organised," said Marwan Hamdy (28), a businessman who cast two of his three ballots for the party. He said he trusted the Muslim Brotherhood on its promises that its vision of Islam was "voluntary" and that it could live side by side with secular and Christian Egyptians.

"They don't want to force anyone to do anything," he said.

The FJP is dominated by Brotherhood figures but has appointed a vice-president from the Coptic Christian minority.

It says it is inspired by the success of the Turkish Justice and Development Party, which has promoted Islamic dress within Turkey's secular constitution, and has delivered rapid economic growth.

It pours scorn on suggestions that it wants "Islamic" punishments, an alcohol ban and to force women to wear the hijab, or head scarf.

The radical Nour party -- which has been gaining ground -- says it would impose strict Sharia, exempting only non-Muslims in the privacy of their homes. A role for it in government would be likely to scare potential outside investors.

Results from the first round of counting will be formally announced today, after a delay caused by a high turn-out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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