First results coming out of the Egyptian elections indicate, as Middle Eastern political analysts had predicted, that the Islamic Brotherhood has taken some forty percent of the vote with the radical Salafi al-Nour party having won a further 20%. These two Islamic front runners seem set to control no less than two-thirds of Egypt’s parliament.
Whereas White House press secretary Jay Carney has stated that “The fact of the matter is, the democratic process is what’s important”, many, including the Copts, who represent 10% of Egypt’s population and have seen their churches burnt down and co-religionists persecuted, are more than a little perturbed by the results, which to date have not seen a single woman elected to the parliament.
Indications are that, when voters go to the polls in outlying districts, the percentage of the vote going to Muslim parties will be even higher. Needless to say, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is “deeply vexed and concerned” by the outcome of these elections, which could easily transform Egypt into a theocracy not very different from Iran.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Hamas Politburo Chief, Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, is delighted and is reported to have remarked that the success of the Islamic parties would benefit the Palestinians. (It should be recalled that Hamas was itself founded in 1987 as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. One has only to look at the Gaza Strip today to see the degree to which Hamas has imposed Sharia law on the local population.)
Israel, which shares a 240 kilometre border with Egypt, is naturally viewing the first results of the elections with some concern, particularly given the Muslim Brotherhood’s declared intention to reassess the treaty signed between the two countries in 1979 following the Camp David Accords.
Those who so strongly supported the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, whose dictatorship nevertheless brought stability to the region, albeit at a price, may well wonder whether the democratic elections for which they then clamoured will result in the establishment of a regime that, in the words of Jay Carney, will respect human rights, respect the democratic process, renounce violence, and work for the inclusion of and respect of minorities.
Many have their doubts. Cairo is not Washington and Egypt is not Sweden. The Arab Spring increasingly looks like a springboard – a springboard that may unseat dictators but could easily replace at least some of them with fundamentalist regimes that are not only undemocratic but which, from a western perspective, could be even more unpalatable than anything that preceded them.
Back in February, I wrote: “When I hear both President Obama and President Ahmadinejad expressing their joy at the outcome of the Lotus Revolution in Egypt I am worried. I am worried, because one of them has got it wrong.” Today, ten months later, I am no less worried. Perhaps more so….