Islamists Maintain Momentum in Egyptian Polling

December 25, 2011  

The Muslim Brotherhood was the clear victor on Saturday in Egypt’s second round of parliamentary elections. Hardliner Salafists from the al-Nour party followed closely on the Brotherhood’s heels.

Abdul Moez Ebrahim of Egypt’s Higher Election Commission told reporters the Islamist parties had clearly dominated the most recent round of voting for party lists, but added official results would not be available until mid-January. Candidates from both Islamist parties vying for individual seats in the same round won 54 out of 60 seats up for grabs.

Ebrahim said that 43 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the second round of the polls held in mid-December in nine of Egypt’s 27 governorates.

The staggered election, Egypt’s first since long-standing president Hosni Mubarak’s toppling earlier this year, is based on a mixed system of party lists and individual candidacy. Two-thirds of the 498-seat parliament are allocated for party lists. The remaining third are set aside for independent candidates.

Egypt’s elections – which will see their third and final stage on January 3-4 – come amid mass unrest and a worsening economy on the banks of the Nile.

Protesters unsatisfied with the slow pace of reform under the caretaker Junta that replaced Mubarak had flooded the streets in recent weeks leading to violent clashes with security forces.

The unrest, combined with signs from Egypt’s military leaders they may not willingly hand over power to a civilian government they do not approve of, has led to a freeze on billions of dollars in foreign aid pledged to stabilize Egypt’s economy.

Cairo has burned through almost half of its foreign currency reserves in the past 11 months and is hemorrhaging cash at an astounding rate. Egypt’s net cash outflow since Mubarak’s ouster totals some $8.9 billion.

At the same time, Western donors are concerned about the rise of Islamist parties in Egypt who represent a political radicalization in the most populous Arab country and advocate the imposition of Sharia law.

US lawmakers earlier this year conditioned billions in aid dollars to Cairo on power being transferred to a civilian government that respected human rights, and freedom of religion and expression.

An additional requirement is that any future Egyptian government maintains the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. 

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