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The Muslim Brotherhood-led electoral alliance announced on Tuesday that it would compete for all parliamentary seats under the slogan “We bring good for Egypt.”
The Democratic Alliance, which groups 11 parties, including the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, has fielded candidates in the 76 districts allocated by proportional representation via political party lists and in the 113 districts allocated to single winners, in both parliamentary chambers, according to an announcement made at a press conference today. This conference came on the heels of a meeting that lasted for nearly two hours between the various members of the coalition at the Freedom and Justice Party's headquarters in Cairo.
Speaking to reporters after the press conference, the party's Secretary General Mohamed Saad al-Katatny said he has not yet received the exact number of seats that his party is running for but affirmed that it had to surpass the 50-percent ceiling set by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council earlier this year. By saying it would refrain from running for more than half of the parliamentary seats, the nation’s oldest Islamist organization was trying to reassure secularists that it had no intention of hijackng the state and thus Islamizing it.
However, today, Freedom and Justice Party leaders said they had violated the Shura Council’s decision out of necessity.
“The Shura Council set that [ceiling] when elections were still based on a single-winner system,” Katatny said. “When the system became list-based, we were obliged to fill the lists with names so that they get accepted. However, names that appear on the second half of any list have very little chance of making it into the parliament.”
Katatny argued that party members who have a real chance of success make up between 35 and 40 percent of the total number of the coalition’s nominees.
In June, the Democratic Alliance was launched by Islamists and secularists as an attempt to bridge the gap between their outlooks, develop a set of common goals, and coordinate their electoral efforts. But soon enough ideological fights erupted. With the exception of the Wafd Party, the secularists walked out, accusing the Brotherhood of siding with Salafis to Islamize Egypt.
Later on, when the remaining coalition members began to develop a common electoral list, the Wafd Party and the Salafis broke away, accusing the Freedom and Justice Party of seeking to extend its hegemony over the coalition and advance its candidates at the expense of other parties’ nominees. Some groups alleged that Freedom and Justice Party members constituted over 80 percent of the coalition’s candidates.
In an unexpected move, Katatny announced that his party would not use the group’s most controversial “Islam is the Solution” slogan during election campaigns. Instead, candidates will abide by the coalition’s catchphrase: “We bring good for Egypt.”
For several years, secular groups have opposed the Brotherhood’s slogan, arguing it breeds sectarianism, presents Brotherhood candidates as the only righteous Muslims, and violates the constitution. Earlier this month, Freedom and Justice Party President Mohammed Morsi reportedly expressed vehement resistance to attempts at preventing the group from using its famous motto. However, last week, the High Elections Commission announced that nominees will not be allowed to use any religious chants or symbols.
“We say that ‘Islam is the Solution’ is compatible with the Constitution, but we are not running alone in these elections and we cannot impose a certain slogan,” said Katatny.
The Democratic Alliance is one of several electoral alliances that have been recently formed. In August, about 21 secular parties, including those that withdrew from the Islamist-led coalition, formed their own alliance under the name “The Egyptian Bloc.” Yet this bloc did not survive in such a large form for long, dramatically shrinking in size in less than two months. Only three parties remained on board: the liberal Free Egyptians Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and the leftist Tagammu Party. Some splinters and youth-led groups formed a new bloc named “The Revolution Continues.” As for Salafis and radicals, they rallied behind the Nour Party, the first Salafi endeavor in competitive politics.
“It [the Democratic Alliance] is not against anyone. The alliance acts according to the rules of fair competition. It is looking forward to free and fair elections…” read the statement issued by the Brotherhood-dominated coalition.
In the meantime, Katatny sought to diffuse fears of a possible sweeping Islamist victory, arguing that parliamentary seats will be equally divided between Islamists and liberals. “I do not expect the Islamic trend with all its groups can win more than 50 percent of the [parliamentary] seats,” he added.
On Monday evening, the High Elections Commission stopped receiving applications from parliamentary candidates. Thousands of parliamentary hopefuls had submitted their candidacies.
On 28 November, the electoral race is set to begin.