In the first free and fair elections in Egypt’s history, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) won approximately 40 percent of the vote and the radical Islamic Salafi movement’s Al-Nour Party won 20 percent.
After decades of being outlawed and suppressed under the U.S.-supported dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, these conservative-religious parties are seeing a resurgence. The FJP has touted a return to Islamic Sharia law and the Salafists have called for a return to the way Islam was practised during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, in the 7th Century.
Egypt’s ruling military council expressed concern at the results of the election, promising to respect the will of the people while simultaneously demanding that the military’s administrative status remain unchanged Egypt will remain secular.
Israel too has expressed concern over the results. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the parliamentary elections have so far been “very, very disturbing.” He called on the new parliament, to be in power next year, to respect Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, despite the popular disdain for the agreement which many see as a de facto acquiescence of brutal Israeli policies in the occupied territories.
Other Egyptian political parties vying for power accused the FJP of handing out cheap food and medicine to influence voters and of breaking election rules by lobbying outside voting stations.
The liberal parties most aligned with the youth Arab Spring movement that ousted Mubarak after relentless Tahrir Square protests are also worried about the strong turnout for conservative-religious parties. The Egyptian Bloc, an alliance of these liberal groups, ran advertisements in newspapers saying “Don’t soften your support for the civil, moderate current to achieve a balanced parliament that represents the Egyptian people, and do not give up your rights.”
The voting in the last days in November covered 9 out of 27 provinces total, which will elect about 30% of the lower house of parliament. Two further rounds of voting are scheduled to take place over the next six weeks.
The upper house will then be elected in another three stages and then presidential elections are scheduled to be held before June.