By Jodi Sanger-Weaver
Since the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, people everywhere have been anticipating whether or not there will be democratic elections and if so who will win and whether or not they will be free from corruption. A big question has risen over which direction the country will go politically and whether or not the prominent Muslim Brotherhood will lead the country in the right direction. While questions still remain, the political atmosphere is becoming clearer. Last month, the temporary military-led government solidified election dates, and parties running in the election were formalized. The election will be split into three separate rounds, with November 28 set as the first round of voting. The following two elections will occur December 14 and January 3 and the first session of parliament will commence on March 17, 2012.
With these dates finalized, the main players in the campaign have been sorted out. There are many different parties involved in the race (47 parties and over 6,700 candidates), but four main coalitions have formed. These coalitions are the liberal, left-of-center Egyptian Bloc, the Islamist Alliance, the activist and socialist leaning Revolution Continues, and finally the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance.
The Egyptian Bloc is an alliance consisting of the Free Egyptians party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the Mubarak-era leftist opposition Tagammu Party. They are running on a platform that is calling for a modern civil state, fighting against the creation of a theocratic state. The alliance will run 233 candidates in unified electoral lists in 64 electoral districts. The breakdown of the alliance is 10% of the vote share to the Tagammu Party, 40% to the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and 50% to the Free Egyptians.
The Revolution Continues is an alliance between the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Socialist Party, Egypt Freedom, Equality and Development, the liberal Egyptian Current and the Revolution Youth Coalition. The alliance will field 300 candidates in 33 electoral districts, including 250 on unified electoral lists and 50 for independent seats. They will run on a platform that calls for redistribution of wealth as well as an end to military rule, emergency law, and all the other authoritarian measures taken during the Mubarak years.
The Islamist Alliance, on the other hand, desires to create a theocratic state, running on a platform that calls for the implementation of shari’a law. The parties in the alliance include the Nour Party, the Asala (Authenticity Party), the Salafist Current, and the Construction and Development Party (the political arm of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya). All four parties will be running on unified lists, under the banner of the Nour Party, and will compete in all electoral districts across Egypt. They expect to have strong support nationwide, with each party enjoying widespread support in different regions of the country. The alliance plans to split the vote share according to the relative political weight of each party and how much it contributes to the success of the overall list.
Finally, the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance consists of a coalition of 12 parties that are under the leadership of the Brotherhood’s own Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) as well as the liberal Ghad Party and the Nasserist-leaning Al-Karama (Dignity) Party. However, the alliance heavily favors the Muslim Brotherhood, awarding 70% of the slots on the unified lists to FJP members, as well as 90% of the slots to Brotherhood affiliated FJP candidates that will run for the Parliament’s seats reserved for independents. The widespread and well known Muslim Brotherhood and its alliance intend to run for every seat in Parliament, competing in 67 electoral districts around the country. They intend to run on a platform that espouses the Brotherhood’s age old slogan “Islam is the solution”, intending, like the Islamist Alliance, to head in a theocratic direction.
While the Democratic Alliance and the Islamist Alliance have similar goals, the Islamist Alliance was formed after several parties dropped out of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Democratic Alliance, complaining that the Muslim Brotherhood was monopolizing the coalition and not giving the other parties a fair share of the seats. Some have said that this will weaken the ability of Islamists to win a majority of seats in parliament, and many Islamist intellectuals are calling for unity. However, the Muslim Brotherhood argues that the Brotherhood is actually better off without the less politically experienced Islamist parties, and that their chances of winning seats in parliament increase without these other parties on their list. While this remains a worry among Egypt’s Islamists, the strength and durability of the Muslim Brotherhood is undeniable and widespread recognition and support of the organization will likely aid the Islamist cause in the nearing elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood is unlike any other political party in Egypt. It requires passing through stages in a process that lasts several years in order to become a completely indoctrinated Muslim Brother. In this way, the organization has been able to endure the corruptive nature of Egyptian politics in years past, symbolizing a sense of righteousness to the people. Egyptians will surely remember this as they head to the polls in November.
In the journey to become a Muslim Brother, a brother is first considered a muhib, or “lover”. During this stage that typically lasts anywhere from 6 months to a year, a potential Muslim brother must show that they are improving in their piety and religious adherence. If not, he is rejected by the organization. Once he proves basic knowledge of the Quran, improvement in his piety and regular prayers, he advances to the level of muayyad, or “supporter” in which the level of study of the Quran and the organization’s doctrine increases. This stage can last from one to three years and includes responsibilities such as preaching and recruiting. He is still, however, a non-voting member of the organization. The next level is that of muntasib, or “affiliated” and lasts a year in which the brother is monitored and continues to study the Quran. Once this step is fulfilled, the next step is that of muntazim, or “organizer,” and typically lasts two years. During this level, the brother is required to memorize the Quran and his loyalty is closely studied and tested to determine whether he qualifies for advancement into the next level of ach’amal, or “working brother”. Once at this level, a brother can vote in all internal elections and run for higher office. All in all, the process usually takes five to eight years to complete.
Such a complex and lengthy system is set up specifically to prevent the infiltration of state security agents into the brotherhood, similar to what happened in other political parties in the past in Egypt. For this reason, even if the fall of Mubarak leads to a more democratic political environment, it is unlikely that the structure and goal of the Muslim Brotherhood as a political party will change. It is the structure of the organization itself that ensures its purity of purpose and makes it so durable and prominent in Egypt. Egyptians are tired of corruption, and the Muslim Brotherhood stands out as a pious organization free from such tarnish. Furthermore, the splitting of the Islamists into a separate coalition will probably have little effect on whether or not the country will move in a theocratic direction considering both coalitions have similar goals as far as the role Islam will play in the political structure of the state. So, even though the Muslim Brotherhood was not at the forefront of the riots and demonstrations that led to the fall of the Mubarak regime, and even though the Islamists are split between separate coalitions, it is almost guaranteed that the Brotherhood will win a good portion of votes in the nearing elections. Its commitment to purpose and unfaltering dedication to provide social services to a country in need will surely resonate with voters when they cast their ballots in November as well as in the following December and January elections.