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A country afraid of its parliament

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Managing editor Rana Allam

Rana Allam

There is not one political faction that wants to hold parliamentary elections nowadays, except maybe the Salafis.

Elections were expected to be held in the next few months, right after the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. However, everyone seems to be dreading these elections, despite the show to the contrary.

It seems that all parties are relieved by the continuous postponement as the draft law keeps being rejected by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The single difference between the parties is that the Salafis continue to gain more ground than the secular opposition or the ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB), as a 180-degree shift in their stance with the government in recent months has given them extra push on street level. In the previous parliament, Salafis won nearly 25% of parliamentary seats, the Brotherhood won over 45%, and the rest went to various other parties.

In the 2011 parliamentary elections, Islamists were fighting a single battle against secularists and civil state advocates, and 70% of voters gave their voices to the Islamist bloc, without much distinction between the Salafis and the Brothers – they voted for the so-called “religious lot”. Now that the Brotherhood has proven a failure both in managing the country and in implementing their agreement with the Salafis to turn Egypt to an Islamic state, the Salafis have turned against them. They have now built upon the Brotherhood’s failures to gain ground on the streets by openly opposing the MB, and in many cases, questioning their religiosity, calling them infidels and “traitors of the Islamic project”. Salafis work mosques in rural and urban Egypt, with TV channels to voice their opinions, and millions of listeners – millions who are frustrated from their daily burdens and hold the Brotherhood responsible.

The Salafis have presented their position in opposing the MB through all-time-winner logic: the MB is not implementing the Islamic Shari’a, therefore the country is doomed and will never rise. This is simple logic – and goes straight to the hearts of the millions of semi-educated religious Egyptians. And what alternative is presented to these millions? Zilch!

The rest of the opposition bloc is at a standstill. On with their press conferences and TV appearances, on with their internal elections and in-fighting, and nowhere near the public. These millions who have not even heard of the opposition’s fronts and alliances are only provided with the Salafis as an alternative.

The irony is that the secular opposition knows that, and although they continue to criticise the elections law delay, they know it is for their best interest. They have failed over the past year to create wide public awareness of what they stand for, be it liberalism, socialism or anything in between.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for their part, would rather postpone elections indefinitely. They already have their Shura Council to pass whatever legislation they want, so why would they hold elections in these dire times when the man-on-the-street  is cursing the day they came to power?

To hold elections in September (as initially proposed) would be the most idiotic move the Brothers could make.

Picture this story: it is mid July, and the very first week of Ramadan. A man wakes up sweating from the heat, his decades old electric fan not working, for there is no electricity. He gets out of bed, hoping for a shower, but there is no water because the water generator stopped working too, as there is no power. He stops himself from cursing, for this is the holy month and he is fasting. He leaves the house to get to work, but there is not enough gas in the car, heads to the station to stand in a two-hour long queue of people waiting to fill their cars and trucks with diesel. Half his day gone, he heads to work, then attempts to get back in time to break his fast, but the traffic is horrible and he spends an additional hour on his way home, in the heat of July and the thirst of fasting. Finally he gets there, only to find some fool and falafel, while his wife explains that meat and chicken prices are beyond their limited budget. He reluctantly eats, prays and decides to watch some TV, but by the time he is relaxed in his chair, the power is cut again, and there is no entertainment, and no air conditioning (even through his little fan). By the time the power is back on, the TV is showing the Freedom and Justice Party leaders campaigning for elections.

Do you honestly think that this man will vote for them? Absolutely not; he will, without a second thought, give his voice to the religious, God-fearing other bearded men: the Salafis!

About the author

Rana Allam

Rana Allam

Follow her on Twitter at @Run_Rana

  • David Johnson

    The revolutionaries still have one viable choice if the NSF boycotts the elections. Specifically, the Strong Egypt Party is untainted, if you will, by cooperation with the Morsi administration [unlike the Wasat and Ghad Al-Thawra parties]. The other parties running are either seen as feloul [Shafiq's Egyptian Patriotic Movement] or they are Islamists, so there aren’t any other options for the revolutionaries who would vote, in my opinion.


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