News24

Liberals 'decimated' in Egypt vote

2011-12-05 11:06

Cairo - Egypt's top reformist leader has said the liberal youth behind the country's uprising have been "decimated" in parliamentary elections dominated by Islamists and expressed concern about the rise of hard-line religious elements advocating extremist ideas such as banning women from driving.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Prize laureate and possible presidential candidate, said on Sunday he hopes moderate Islamists will rein in the extremists and send a reassuring message to the world that Egypt will not go down an ultraconservative religious path.

"The youth feel let down. They don't feel that any of the revolution's goals have been achieved," ElBaradei told The Associated Press in an interview on the same day electoral authorities announced that Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes in the first round of elections last week. "They got decimated," he said, adding the youth failed to unify and form "one essential critical mass."

The High Election Commission announced that the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party garnered 36.6% of the 9.7 million valid ballots cast last week for party lists. The Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, captured 24.4%.

Two more rounds of voting

The tallies offer only a partial indication of how the new parliament will look. There are still two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country's 27 provinces over the coming month and run-off elections on Monday and on Tuesday to determine almost all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next parliament appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.

ElBaradei said he thought the combined strength of the two top-placed Islamist blocs surprised everyone, probably even the winning parties themselves.

"The outcome so far is not the greatest one," he said, summing up the mood of the country's educated elite as well as average Egyptians as "angst".

The new parliament will be tasked, in theory, with selecting a 100-member panel to draft the new constitution. If Islamist parties dominate, more liberal forces worry the constitution will be greatly influenced by the religious perspective.

In a move that angered the Islamist groups, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country after Mubarak's fall in February, has suggested that it will choose 80 of those members.

ElBaradei said writing the constitution that respects human rights, dignity and freedom of expression should be based on a consensus among all the players, and not on a parliamentary majority.

Concerns

"In my view, it is all in the hands of SCAF right now," he said, hoping the ruling generals will help promote the consensus.

However, ElBaradei was highly critical of the military rulers, saying they have "royally mismanaged" the transition period.

He also raised concerns about statements by some Salafi elements questioning whether women should be banned from driving, as they are in Saudi Arabia, or branding the novels of Egypt's Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, as "prostitution".

"I worry of course that some of the extreme stuff coming out from some of the Salafis ... when you hear that literature of somebody like Mahfouz is equal to prostitution, if you hear that we are still debating whether women are going to drive their cars, if we are still discussing whether democracy is against Shariah," or Islamic law, ElBaradei said.

"These are of course sending shockwaves, statements like that. I think the Brotherhood in particular, and some of the Salafis, should send quickly messages of assurance both inside the country and outside the country to make sure that society continues to be cohesive to make sure that investment will come in."

He said the statements "will have tremendous economic and political implications". Moderate Islamists need to "make clear that some of these voices ... are on the extreme fringes and they will not be the mainstream".

Newcomers

The focus on safeguarding religious principles should be mindful of rampant poverty and illiteracy, not "about what people are going to dress, to drink", he said.

Salafis are newcomers on Egypt's political scene. They long shunned the concept of democracy, saying it allows man's law to override God's. But they formed parties and entered politics after Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February, seeking to enshrine Islamic law in Egypt's new constitution.

By contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organised political group, was officially banned under Mubarak but established a nationwide network of activists. After Mubarak's fall, the group's Freedom and Justice Party campaigned fiercely, their organisation and name-recognition giving them a big advantage over newly formed liberal parties.

ElBaradei said the Muslim Brotherhood's strong showing was not unexpected, given that Egypt is emerging from decades of brutal dictatorship that smothered civil society. He said one in every three Egyptians is illiterate and nearly half subsist in deep poverty.

"It should not be a surprise people are voting with their gut. People lost their sense of identity with the state. They identify with religion," ElBaradei said.

Basic needs

He said the Brotherhood has been working for many years providing basic needs for health care and other social services the government failed to deliver and they were well known throughout the country.

In contrast, the liberal youth groups behind the uprising failed to form a cohesive, unified front. He said they only formed political parties two months ago.

He predicted the Muslim Brotherhood will prefer to form an alliance with the liberals rather than the Salafis to get a majority in parliament. The liberal Egyptian Bloc - which came in third with 13.4% of the votes - could counterbalance hard-line elements.

Nevertheless, ElBaradei agreed the first elections since Mubarak's fall were free and fair and said the massive turnout of about 60% lent it legitimacy.

However, he said it will not produce a parliament that represents Egyptian society. ElBaradei said he expects few women, youths or Coptic Christians, a minority that constitutes about 10% of Egypt's 85 million citizens.

The rise of the Islamists has also caused concern in the US and Israel, which has a long-standing peace treaty with Egypt it fears might be in jeopardy. But ElBaradei said he does not foresee any radical changes in Egypt's foreign policy because the country still depends heavily on foreign assistance and cannot afford to isolate itself. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid.

He said Egyptians are looking more to Turkey as a model for a moderate Islamist state rather than Saudi Arabia and its strict imposition of Islamic law.

'A work in progress'

ElBaradei said Egypt has progressed since the revolution but the economy and law and order have deteriorated sharply.

"We are now a freer country," he said. "People lost their sense of fear ... We are empowered as a people."

He said he is advising the liberal youth groups not to give up and to view this as a "long haul" process and to start preparing for the next elections, overcome their ideological differences and work together.

"We'll have to keep fighting," he said, adding that "the revolution is still a work in progress".

He predicted protesters will return to Cairo's Tahrir Square to keep pressing their demands.

"If you have the second wave of the revolution, it will be an angry one," he said.

Comments
  • VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 11:52

    "liberals Decimated" Best headline all year, these guys have destroyed the very fabric of discipline & morals in society, as well as the credibility of real champions of real rights.

      wesleywt - 2011-12-05 12:38

      Yes stop those evil women from driving...perhaps stone them to death because it is morally right. \vovo247 Its amazing that you have the brain capacity to stand upright.

      VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 12:46

      @wesleywt, like I say, where do we draw the line? a century ago, female rights were just a pipe dream & thought "will never happen" 30 years ago, homosexuality was generally outlawed & sick, yet now they have human rights... Today we look down on pedophelia, yet what makes you think that in 30 years time, even these will be classed as human??? So hey, how far will this go?

      modo - 2011-12-05 13:05

      That is the most ridiculous comment ever. Female rights and homosexuality are completely victimless. How can you even attempt to draw a parallel to paedophilia!? If you think all three are equally morally deficient you need to seriously reassess your values.

      VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 13:25

      @modo, you missing my point. I am saying that the struggle for liberties may have been valid at a stage, but is now being used to push issues that are not necessary & actually harmful. female rights are obvious morally correct issues. Homosexual rights? Well, that depends on who you ask.. pedophilia? sick yes, but then again so is homosexuality to some, so if 1 gets why the other not? Why can we not execute illegal immigrants on site? they have rights.... rights for something called "illegal"? WTF? criminal rights? WTF? murderers have the rights to live??? WTF? Kids have more rights than parents & teachers, criminals more rights than human beings, aliens have rights to our land, etc etc etc, we have destroyed a genuine struggle with a disgraceful handout of liberties over the years, & are only starting to feel the effects now (Riots in england anyone?)

      modo - 2011-12-05 15:01

      No, you're missing the point. Rights should not be handed out or removed based on what you deem 'sick' or not, but rather based on whether someone is being harmed in the act. Do you really feel as if illegal immigrants should be executed on the spot?? Please tell me I am misunderstanding you here. Do you really feel that you deserve more rights than someone else simply because you were born into a situation which didn't require you to flee your own country in order to live a prosperous life? I know this isn't always the case, but to make a blanket statement deeming illegal immigration as immoral and worthy of death clearly shows that your moral compass is pointing in the wrong direction.

      modo - 2011-12-05 15:16

      VOVO, raping, killing, dealing drugs etc are the types of behaviour that should be punished! Yes, that is obvious. But you specifically said: 'Why can we not execute illegal immigrants on site? they have rights.... rights for something called "illegal"? WTF?' You are talking about executing all immigrants! Not rapists, murderers etc. Can you not see the difference here?

      VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 15:55

      Yeah its an extremist view, I see where you coming from, but the issue is simple, the current system is not working. they need to know that they cannot come here, illegally. enter illegally & you should be destroyed. If necessary, maybe a refugee camp, but not break in, do as you please, & still have rights to co-exist.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 16:18

      Modo, you still dont quite get the point, ! TOO MUCH FREEDOM DESTROY, from this westren norm ,its clear homosexuality is evil and destruction to human breeding ,existance and morality.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 16:23

      Modo, you still dont quite get the point, ! TOO MUCH FREEDOM DESTROY, from this westren norm ,its clear homosexuality is evil and destruction to human breeding ,existance and morality.

  • Fred - 2011-12-05 12:04

    It will be a tragedy if all the blood spilled is to be wasted by a theocratic takeover. Nothing good can come from countries being controlled by brain addled religious zealots.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 12:24

      Fred seems to be worried very much about islamist victory in egypt ,tunis, moroco and turkey ... The real religion and truth is rising up,while brain addled jewish and their brainwashed followers are in deep crisis financially,politically..,..,

      wesleywt - 2011-12-05 12:38

      A religion that puts raped women in jail? Yes that is a good religion to follow.

      Vicker - 2011-12-05 12:41

      @Caaqil - yeah like Islam is a wonderful religion - NOT...

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 12:49

      What about those occupiers and settlers, who are using every power they got to commit genocide and mass killing of women and children in gaza. Is that justice.-

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 13:01

      You are talking about puting raped women in jail.. Dont you know that israil commandos and aircraft forces use their latest weopens to kill and massacre hundreds of thountands of women and children in gaza. And no one is talking about that. Where is the human dignity and rights.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 13:05

      Furthermore i am not arab or someone from middle east ,but i am telling you the reality on the ground,bcos i read and listen everyday..,...

      VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 13:30

      @Caaqil Mahadale thats the problem, western culture of handing out rightd to demons that deserve only death. They allow homo's to run in the streets & have polluted our system here with them too. African leaders are trying to make a stand against this evil are attacked by so called rights groups. When NATO kills innocent people, its called collateral or accidental, when others do it its murder. Western culture in principle is amazing but in reality it is the most biased, discriminating unnatural system based on the suffering of some o benefit others under the guise of freedom for all. They have destroyed the very nature & instinct of the mammel system with their mindless actions based on uneducated assumptions.

      VOVO247 - 2011-12-05 13:32

      Excuse typo's

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-05 13:44

      @ vovo 247 , you 100% right about that, look at what is going on in afganstan, iraq ,palastine, bombing civilians in their homes,under the name of counter terrorism , become daily burial for thoundands of innocent civilians,.

      Nibiru - 2011-12-05 13:44

      @ VOVO247 No problem you qualify as a definite excuse

  • Observer - 2011-12-05 17:34

    I really look forward to the day when all religious types KEEP THEIR HANDS OFF MY FREEDOM!!! It is the countries that espouse religion in their daily political life that are the most intolerant, coercive, anti liberty and reactionary fascists around. All in the guise that God, Allah, Jehovah , Krishna etc. are guiding are daily lives and the free will we were born with is somehow to be restricted, curtailed, directed or some such carry on. Look at the most successful flexible and continually evolving states. They are secular, tolerant and liberal. Theocracies and their ilk continue to wallow in superstition and centuries old beliefs that has no bearing on a modern world. What a laugh!!!

  • Drees - 2011-12-05 17:52

    If the majority of the country's population votes, clearly democracy has prevailed. If the majority openly votes for conservative religious parties then who are we to discredit their beliefs. If you feel so strongly about women's rights in Egypt, go there and start and organisation. I'm sick of all this All Talk no Action attitude of news24 readers. Go whine somewhere else.

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