News / Middle East

Will Islamists, Mubarak Loyalists Win in Upcoming Egypt Elections?

Anti-government protesters hold an Egyptian flag during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo in early February.
Anti-government protesters hold an Egyptian flag during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo in early February.
Mohamed Elshinnawi

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series: Egypt’s Transition
Parts 1 / 2 / 3

Since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down last February, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took on the temporary rule of the country. According to the council’s plan, parliamentary elections will be held in September of this year, followed by presidential elections at the end of this year.

Egyptians are witnessing newfound freedom in forming political parties and getting ready for the country’s first free and fair parliamentary elections since the 1952 revolution. However, they are beginning to worry about what kind of political system will emerge from the ruins of the Mubarak regime.

Some two dozen parties will compete to win seats but many political parties especially the newly established ones will have no time to develop, organize campaigns and mobilize support. Mohammed Nosseir, a leading member of the Democratic Front Party established in 2007 said several liberal parties feel the military council has not offer a clear political roadmap.

“Currently what we are receiving is different kind of steps, Supreme Council of the Armed Forces produces laws every now and then, but we are not aware what will happen in the future.” said Nosseir. “A roadmap has not been produced yet and everyone is stuck and this is making a big confusion for all parties and individuals who are intending to participate in the elections. There is no really clear structure yet so each one can position himself.”

Islamists, Mubarak loyalists are coming

Sobhi Saleh (l), a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and former member of parliament, is surrounded by supporters in Cairo, Egypt, May 12, 2011
Sobhi Saleh (l), a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood and former member of parliament, is surrounded by supporters in Cairo, Egypt, May 12, 2011

Given such a tight timeframe between now and September, Nosseir and leaders of other liberal parties fear a risk that the new parliament will end up with elected members from only few parties including the well- organized, well financed Muslim Brotherhood which would likely benefit from holding the elections so quickly. Nosseir said this will have serious implications for the new constitution as well as shaping the political future of Egypt.

“We need a clear law to define the role of religion in politics; if they can capitalize on religious slogans or not, if they can capitalize on churches and mosques where currently the Muslim Brotherhood has been capitalizing on this to push for their own agenda,” he said.

Historically, the most politically pervasive groups have been the Muslim Brotherhood and, until its recent court-ordered dissolution, the National Democratic Party, whose former members can reconstitute it under a different name.

Tug war between the military and the street

Many political parties are trying to push the Council of the Armed Forces to agree to postpone the parliamentary elections till a new constitution is drafted. One complaint which is widespread now in Egypt is that the military council issues decrees without regularly consulting with the representatives of the groups that started the revolution. Former U.S. Ambassador to the UAE, Bill Rugh visited Egypt recently and wrote an article entitled Revolution Is Incomplete.

He said Egyptians are still uneasy about the incompleteness of their revolution. Ambassador Rugh expects more public pressure to clarify the political roadmap of post-revolution Egypt.

“The street protesters continue to come out and make demands especially every Friday and they have had an influence on the military,” he said. “The Generals don’t have the habit of discussing their policies in advance with the public; they discuss it among themselves and then announce it. But if the people in the street are not happy with the decisions, they protest and those protests have had some influence.”

The lack of clarity prompted Al Wafd, the oldest liberal party in Egypt to form a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood’s newly established Freedom and Justice Party and several junior parties to ease the fear that Egypt may become a theocracy. Al-Azhar, the main source of Islamic learning in Egypt weighed in the debate and declared there is no room in Islam for a “theocracy”. In a document signed by Muslim scholars and Egyptian Christian intellectuals, Al-Azhar called for a democratic transition that emphasizes separation of powers.

What role would the next president play?

Another question that is crying for an answer is the nature of the new political system in Egypt and whether it would be presidential or parliamentary system or a mix of both. In the past 60 years, Egyptian president was given a broad list of authorities that made him the absolute authority. Egyptians are tired of going from one Pharaoh to another but only the new constitution will define the limits of presidential powers. Ambassador Rugh discussed this dilemma with a presidential candidate.

“I had a conversation with Mohamed El-Baradei, who is one of the candidates for president and I asked him if he had any contacts with the Generals who are setting the rules and he said no," said Rugh. "And Mohamed El-Barade said that the Generals are not revealing their hand as to how the new political system will look, how much power the president will have. And he said how can I apply for a job if I do not know what the job description is?”

Will the military support a certain candidate?

Until recently most Egyptians shared with George Ishaq, founder of the pro-democracy protest movement "Kifaya” a prediction that there will likely be two front runners for presidential candidates this year; Dr. Baradei and Amr Moussa.

Mohamed ElBaradei (file photo)
Mohamed ElBaradei (file photo)

Mohamed ElBaradei, is former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Amr Moussa, is the recent secretary-general of the Arab League. ElBaradei's principal, and significant, obstacle is that his support base is very narrow, having been an outsider to Egypt throughout his professional life. Moussa's principal obstacle is his previous, brief association with the Mubarak regime, though he fell out of favor and was removed from his post as foreign minister.

On the positive side, both have substantial international experience. But according to the latest Facebook poll conducted by Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mohamed ElBaradei is the most favorable candidate followed by Mohamed Salim Al Awa.

He is a moderate Islamist who just announced his intention to run as a presidential candidate. In the third place came General Ahmed Shafiq, a former civil aviation minister in the former regime. Skeptics are suspicious that the military council conducted the poll in order to define who the candidate the military would support is. But others said the military personnel are not permitted to vote anyway.

While the direction of Egypt’s political transition is still unknown, experts expect that if parliamentary elections are held in September, followed by presidential elections, most political forces, especially those which emerged during the revolution will not be represented in the parliament or have a say on the new constitution. That means the likely winners in the upcoming elections will be the Islamists and remnants of the Mubarak dissolved party: the National Democratic Party.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs