Elections Monitor: Brotherhood’s absence ‘positive for Egypt’

“A new parliament without the outlawed,” reads the headline of an opinion piece by Mohammed Barakat, editor-in-chief of state-run Al-Akhbar. According to Barakat, a parliament without the Brotherhood is positive for Egyptian politics, constituting a corrective to a situation that was not supposed to be permitted–in reference to the group's victory in 88 parliamentary races in 2005.

The “illegal organization,” Barakat argues, fielded candidates illegally by circumventing electoral laws and promoting its candidates as independents. Its use of religious slogans is also prohibited, Barakat says.

The Brotherhood’s consummate defeat in this year’s People’s Assembly elections, as well as the poor showing of major opposition parties, has elicited responses in the Egyptian press that range from a celebratory tone, such as Barakat’s, to attacks from prominent members of the opposition against a ruling regime that they say manipulated votes to install token opposition representation.

For Barakat, the Brotherhood’s failure to secure a single seat in the first round of the 2010 elections evidences the movement’s lack of popular support, contrary to Brotherhood claims. The defeat, Barakat notes, represents more than just lost seats. It is also a moral defeat. This year’s elections are evidence that the Brotherhood’s image was built on lies and false claims, he argues.

The group’s dismal performance, Barakat continues, is not coincidental or the result of fraud, as rights groups and opposition figures claim. Instead, it represents organized efforts by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to mobilize voters. The NDP launched these efforts following the 2005 elections, where the Brotherhood’s misleadingly strong performance was primarily the result of NDP electoral mistakes. The ruling party avoided such mistakes in 2010, according to Barakat.

Ultimately, Barakat says the Brotherhood’s absence from the new parliament should be considered a “victory of the law and the Constitution.” The movement’s absence buttresses the principles upon which the secular state is founded, namely citizenship and prohibited religious discrimination, he adds.

Abdallah Kamal, editor-in-chief of state-run Rose al-Youssef, echoes Barakat’s arguments in another opinion piece. While Kamal contends the NDP did not aim to crush opposition parties, he also argues it is clear that the ruling party’s goal was to defeat the Brotherhood, given its nature as an “illegal organization” and a threat to the secular state and its institutions.

Kamal applauds the NDP for challenging the Brotherhood on behalf of all other parties that have abandoned the effort and, on occasion, even allied themselves with the Brotherhood. The NDP has the right to boast of this achievement, writes Kamal, considering its strategic thinking and resource investment.

Several prominent opposition figures have charged the NDP with desperately trying to install token opposition representation in parliament. Abdul Ghafar Shukr, a prominent figure in the Tagammu Party, said the success of minor opposition parties constitutes an overt attempt by the NDP to create an “imaginary” opposition in order to lend some legitimacy to the People’s Assembly after the Wafd Party and the Brotherhood withdrew from the run-off vote, reports privately-owned Al-Dostour.

The presence of several small parties in parliament also means these parties will have the constitutional right to nominate presidential candidates, lending further legitimacy to the 2011 presidential elections. Al-Dostour continues that Ghafar revealed a deal struck between NDP and the Tagammu leaderships to produce a parliament that has the semblance of democracy, despite flagrant fraud that marred the elections.

Brotherhood leader Sobhi Saleh argued that the NDP desperately needed to change parliament’s complexion by supporting candidates from various opposition parties which are however loyal to it, reports Al-Dostour. Saleh said the Brotherhood will not participate in this “fraudulent farce” and that Magdy Ashour–the only Brotherhood candidate who won a seat–will not complete the steps to join parliament. In the event that he does, Saleh said the Brotherhood will oust Ashour from the movement.

NDP candidates continue to accuse the party of supporting opposition candidates at their own expense, reports Al-Dostour. Defeated NDP candidate Mohsen Fawzi for the Abdin district accused the NDP of fraud and support for Ghad Party candidate Ragab Hilal Himida. 

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose el-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt el-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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