Islamists sweep early results in the first round of a 3-part Egyptian vote
Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafis appear to win more than half of seats in first round of parliamentary election.
Islamist parties have surged to an overwhelming victory in the opening round of Egypt’s first post-revolution election, trouncing secular parties throughout the country, according to official results and local media reports.
The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, has won around 40 per cent of the vote, while the Nour Party, a fundamentalist Salafi organisation, has won around 25 per cent, according to unofficial results published in Egyptian newspapers.
The Egyptian Bloc, the country’s main liberal alliance, earned around 15 per cent of the vote, according to those reports.
Those unofficial results applied to districts where political parties ran lists of candidates, as opposed to districts where candidates ran as individuals. The former will account for two-thirds of the People’s Assembly, parliament’s lower house, while the latter will account for one-third.
The High Elections Commission has said it will only release results for party lists in January, after all three stages of the election for the People’s Assembly have finished. But the commission released official results for individual districts on Friday evening.
Activists and liberals have pushed for a new “national salvation” government that would have authority over the SCAF, but the military has made no indication it will support such a change.
Women shut out
Those figures also showed the Nour and Freedom and Justice parties dominating, though most races ended in run-offs, which are set to begin on Monday.
The Freedom and Justice Party won two individual districts outright and will field 43 candidates in runoffs, while the Nour Party, which won no districts outright, will field 22 run-off candidates.
The Egyptian Bloc has just seven candidates in the run-offs. It came in fourth behind candidates who identified themselves as independents.
No women were reported to have won seats in the first round.
Dim hopes for liberals and secularists
Few bright spots appeared for liberals and proponents of a strictly civil state, some of whom had considered boycotting the first election since 18 days of protest overthrew the 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak in February.
The Egyptian Bloc and less prominent Revolution Continues alliance appear to have been outmuscled by the more organised Brotherhood, which has built a presence in Egyptian life through more than 80 years of extensive charitable and social work and opposition to the regime.
Mohammed Abdel Ghani, a liberal candidate, told the independent Al-Shorouk newspaper that his movement needed to counter propaganda that “non-Islamist candidates were infidels”.
At least one prominent liberal, Amr Hamzawy, formerly a Middle East analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, won a seat. Hamzawy, a member of the otherwise invisible Egypt Freedom Party, will represent the upper-class Heliopolis district of Cairo.
But elsewhere, leading figures of the uprising were either struggling or had been beaten.
In Tahrir Square on Saturday, demonstrators who had returned last week to protest against the post-Mubarak military leadership had dwindled to a few hundred.
"Everyone that we had faith in has betrayed us," 25-year-old Mohammed el-Assas said
It was only the opening phase of a parliamentary election that is taking place in three stages, but the returns reveal the political trends that will shape the country’s transition to democracy.
For the lower house of parliament, the rest of the country will vote in a further two stages later this month and in January. An upper house will then be elected in another three stages.
Voters are required to make three votes: two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition.
Israel concerned over Islamists’ rise
The prospect of an Islamist-dominated parliament raises fears among liberals about civil liberties and religious freedom in a country with the Middle East’s largest Christian minority.
The Brotherhood and other political parties are expected to face a fierce power struggle for control with the military, whose ruling generals have recently signaled that they do not see the new parliament having extensive powers - for instance, to unilaterally select the prime minister and cabinets.
The Islamists’ rise is also expected to raise fears in Israel, which shares a border with Egypt and a peace agreement signed in 1979. The Brotherhood has said it will maintain the agreement, though perhaps with slight changes, while Salafis have suggested putting it to a national referendum.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Saturday expressed deep concern over the trend from the first round of voting.
"The process of Islamisation in Arab countries is very worrying," Barak said on Israeli television, adding however that it was "premature to say how these changes will affect the region".
In contrast, the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which enjoyed a landslide win in 2006 parliamentary elections, said the success of Islamist parties in Egypt was a “a very good result”.
"It will mean more and more support for Palestinian issues," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.