The Journal says the unofficial split is 50 percent for the Muslim Brotherhood and 15 percent for the even more radical Salafists. The Times says it’s more like 40 percent for the Brotherhood and 25 percent for the Salafists. How it breaks out matters a lot, but the official results have been delayed a day (possibly to be “tweaked”?) so we’ll have to wait to game that out. Remember, though, that this first round of voting is happening in the country’s more liberal areas; if the religious parties are doing this well now, wait until the ballot moves to the countryside. Bottom line: A supermajority, or something close to it, of the new Egyptian parliament will be Islamist. Wonderful.
Rod Dreher’s headline: “Attention, Copts: It’s time to pack.”
That victory came at the expense of the liberal parties and youth activists who set off the revolution, affirming their fears that they would be unable to compete with Islamists who emerged from the Mubarak years organized and with an established following. Poorly organized and internally divided, the liberal parties could not compete with Islamists disciplined by decades as the sole opposition to Mr. Mubarak. “We were washed out,” said Shady el-Ghazaly Harb, one of the most politically active of the group…
Egyptian election laws required the Salafi parties to put at least one woman on their electoral roster for each district, but they put the women last on their lists to ensure they would not be elected, and some appear with pictures of flowers in place of their faces on campaign posters.
Sheik Hazem Shouman, an important Salafi leader, recently rushed into a public concert on the campus of Mansoura University to try to persuade the crowd to turn away from the “sinful” performance and go home. He defended his actions on a television talk show, saying he had felt like a doctor making an emergency intervention to save a patient dying of cancer.
Did ideology win the day or was it the Brotherhood’s superior organization, replete with handing out leaflets and even free food to people waiting on line to vote, both in violation of Egyptian law? Organization surely did matter — I flagged it myself in yesterday’s post — but here’s an eye-opening detail from the Journal article linked above. Unlike the Brotherhood, the Salafist party is neither old nor well-organized — and it’s still cleaning up at the polls.
Hard-line Salafi candidates did well against the Brotherhood in conservative towns and cities in the verdant Nile Delta region north of Cairo. The Salafi Nour Party list was neck-and-neck with FJP candidates in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria and the fishing hamlet of Kafr el-Sheikh—both bastions of Brotherhood support before the revolution.
The Salafis’ strong showing throughout the country and in historically Brotherhood-dominated areas is particularly troubling to liberals. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis stayed away from politics before the revolution.
Hard not to conclude from that that the Brotherhood would have had a clear majority if not for the Salafists being on the ballot. (As noted up top, they may end up with a majority anyway.) What sorts of consequences will flow from their surprisingly strong showing? Well, for starters, the fact that the Islamist parties have a heavy majority in parliament will probably make it harder for the Egyptian army to control the government. If the vote had split evenly among five or six different parties, the military could claim that Egypt still needs “supervision” while parliament sorts itself out. As it is, you’ve got a huge mandate for rule by the Koran-thumpers. I say “probably,” though, because now that the liberals and Copts are likely locked out of power, they might be more amenable to military rule than they were last week. That would make for a dangerous standoff — the majority against the army plus key minority factions — but maybe that’s where we’re headed.
Next, despite how well the Brotherhood did, they’re bound to feel pressure from the fact that an upstart party like the Salafists did much better than expected, including/especially in MB strongholds. If the Nour party is this strong now, how strong will they be in five years after they’ve improved their organization and have Saudi money rolling in? Meanwhile, the Brotherhood is apparently splintering between the old guard and the new; needless to say, they deeper that split, the more the Salafists will benefit. The obvious move is for the MB is to go even more full metal Islamist than they were planning to in order to win back some of those Salafist voters. What that means for the Camp David accords, especially if/when the Salafists start to demagogue the issue in earnest, no one knows. On the other hand, while the Salafists’ showing presents a problem for the MB domestically, it’s a huge opportunity for them internationally. Now they can sell themselves to the west as the “good Islamists,” the last democratic line of defense against the hardcore nutjobs who will set the region on fire if given the chance. In other words, they’ll be to the Salafists what Mubarak was to them — an awful option made palatable by the fact that its likeliest replacement is even worse. No doubt the “foreign aid,” i.e. billion-dollar bribes, will flow freely to keep them fat, rich, happy, and entrenched and the Salafists safely marginalized. Who knows? If the price is right, maybe they can even be swayed into forming a coalition with the liberal parties instead of the Salafists. Meet the new boss, etc.