Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Egyptian election results

The results of the Egyptian election are worse than expected. In the preliminary voting not only did the Moslem Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party receive ca. 40% of the votes as expected, but the Salafist fundamentalist Islamic party al-Nour received another ca. 25%. Between them they can form an Islamic government and control Egypt. While there are other stages of the election to continue for the upper house of Parliament and for the President, this result has some important consquences.

First, it sidelines all secular and liberal parties which received 13.5% of the vote, and some of them even stupidly boycotted the election, thus weakening their own representation. Second, while the army and the Islamists formed a temporary alliance in order to stop the rioting of the young secularists in Tahrir Square, now the army may switch its allegiance. The first thing that the mullahs did when they took over in Iran was to replace all the army generals and to organize their own militias, the Iranian National Guard and the Basij (militant youth). One of the first things that PM Erdogan did when he was elected in Turkey was to depose all the generals to prevent a coup against his Islamic PK party by the secular army and arrest most of them for plotting against his government, and then he replaced them with his own candidates. Now in Egypt it is likely that one of the first things a new Islamist government will do is to try to replace the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) with their own choices. This could lead to conflict and possibly a civil war. The Government will of course say that it has been democratically elected, which is true, but as in Iran and Gaza, one election is enough for them, and democracy will be immediately stifled. So the secular forces, the young and the urbanites may ally this time with the Army to prevent this takeover.

But, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have their own differences, in effect they are rivals for largely the same constituency. The MB prefers to govern Egypt and take control by providing social welfare to their constituents. Since Egypt is basically bankrupt and receives most of its income from the US, the MB may be forced by pragmatic choice to tolerate the SCAF and continue to cooperate with the US. They also need income from tourism that is about 12% of their income. On the other hand the Salafists are determined enemies of the US, are against western tourism, consit largely of imams and religious leaders and cater more to the poor than the MB and want to replace Egypt and the other Arab countries with a new Caliphate. This may cause them not to go into a coaltion with the MB and may result in the government coalition being more moderate.

In the near future Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, will have to make a difficult choice. For the past 7 years, since they won the first and only election held for the Palestine Authority in Gaza, Hamas has ruled Gaza and has been a model for a Muslim Brotherhood mini-state, with one exception, they are allied to Iran, because Iran gives them arms and support. If Hamas wants to ally itself with the MB of Egypt they will have to break their alliance with Syria and Iran. In the media yesterday was a report that senior Hamas operatives are leaving Damascus in droves. But, then today Hamas denied this. However, there is no doubt that they cannot straddle the divide between the exteme Sunni MB and the extreme Shia Iran. They will have to choose and soon.


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