These days, Egyptians are facing an election marathon. The political parties and their candidates have just taken down the hoardings for the lower-house campaign, and are starting to prepare for the upper-house elections. The most important votes, however, have already been cast: the newly elected parliament will choose the committee that will draft the new constitution.
The election results were published in mid-January, and they clearly set the course for faith-based policy making. All observers had expected the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to do well.
The FJP won 47 per cent of the seats. It is a stunning surprise, however, that the Salafist alliance's Al-Nour party became the second strongest party with about a quarter of the lower-house mandates. "Nour" means "Light".
Moderates and radical Islamists in control
Unlike the FJP, which must be considered moderate in the Egyptian context, the Salafists are hardline Islamists. They want the Koran to rule not only public life, but the citizens' private sphere as well. Though Nour's strong showing irritates the Muslim Brotherhood, it may yet prove a blessing to them because it allows them to emphasise their moderate stance when compared with the radicals.
It seems ironic that the "heroes of Tahrir Square" hardly played a role in the elections at all. After street protests and extended calls to boycott the elections, a group of activists finally decided to run for parliament after all. In the end, they only won 2 per cent of the seats.
By Ronald Meinardus
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