Islamist Nour Party faces stunning defeat in Egypt, secular coalition emerges victorious: Initial poll results

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 20 Oct 2015

The Nour Party's defeat contrasts sharply with its strong performance in 2011's parliamentary elections, where it came second to the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of the number of votes and seats. Gamal Essam El-Din reports

Younes Makhioun (R), the head of the Al-Nour Party, listens to party spokesman Nader Bakkar during a news conference about the constitution in Cairo on December 5, 2013. (Photo:Reuters)

Semi-official results from the first stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections show that the "For the Love of Egypt" electoral coalition has emerged victorious, with the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist force contesting in the polls, facing a big defeat.

Not only has the Nour Party failed to win the one party list constituency – the Nile West Delta – it chose to run in the first stage, but almost none of its 160 candidates who ran as independents was able to win a seat. Some press reports suggest, however, that as many 30 of its independent candidates have qualified for the first stage's run-off round, scheduled next Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The Nour Party's defeat contrasts sharply with its strong performance in 2011's parliamentary elections, where it came second to the Muslim Brotherhood in terms of the number of votes and seats. The Brotherhood, now a banned group, had won 42.7 percent of the seats, with Nour gaining 22.1 percent. The two sides, alongside other minor Islamist forces, garnered a majority of more than 70 percent of the seats in the 2011/2012 parliament. 

Supporters of the party – especially in its power base in Alexandria and Beheira – said they were deeply shocked by the results. Salah Abdel-Maaboud, a senior Nour official, used his Facebook account to urge the party's members not to be disturbed by the results and "instead let us hope that there will be good news from God at the end." 

There is wide belief that the "No to Religious Parties" campaign played a big role in isolating Nour, especially in Alexandria. "It is not just isolation for Nour but for political Islam as a whole," said the campaign's spokesman Mohamed Othman. 

Othman told reporters in Alexandria that "the defeat of Nour means a humiliating defeat for the political Islam movement as a whole. It simply shows that the tide against political Islam in Egypt has reached its height. It began with expelling the Muslim Brotherhood from power in a popular uprising in 2013, and now comes the tragic turn for another Islamist force – Nour – in just two years." 

"The campaign's next move will be directed at dissolving Nour in accordance with Article 74 of the constitution, which bans the formation of political parties upon religious foundations," said Othman, adding that "Nour's biggest defeat in the polls will make this goal very easy to achieve." 

Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied movements, including Assem Abdel-Maged, a leading Gama'a Islamiya activist who fled Egypt after the removal of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, were quick to show delight over Nour's defeat. Abdel-Maged argued that "the defeat will bring collapse to Nour and its traitors," alluding to Nour's siding against the Brotherhood during the 30 June nationwide protests against Morsi in 2013.

The defeat of Nour in the 15-seat Nile West Delta constituency also means that its leading officials who were members of the 2012 parliament will be absent from the political scene. It will be the first time in close to 20 years for Egypt's parliament to be without an Islamist opposition force, which began in 2000 with Muslim Brotherhood candidates winning 17 seats as independents (including Morsi himself), climbing to 88 (20 percent) in 2005.

Among Nour's losing candidates are Ashraf Thabet, deputy speaker of the 2012 parliament, former MP Talaat Marzouq and deputy chairman Ibrahim Mansour. 

Commenting on the initial results Monday night, Sameh Seif El-Yazal, the head of the "For the Love of Egypt" coalition, told Sada El-Balad channel that "the defeat of Nour means that Egyptians have learned the lesson of 2011 and that Egypt will never have a 'Kandahar parliament' again." 

Emad Gad, an Ahram political analyst and a candidate on the "For the Love of Egypt" coalition lists, told Arab media outlets on Tuesday that "the sweeping victory in the first stage paves the way for winning the remaining two 60-seat party list constituencies in the second stage. So we are now in a good position to win the 120 seats reserved to party-based candidates, accounting for 23 percent of the total seats in the coming parliament." 

Gad insisted that "the coalition will not be El-Sisi's voice in the coming parliament, simply because once its list candidates join parliament, they will refer back to their political parties in terms of positions and viewpoints."

"We can all form a big bloc supportive of civilian and democratic values in the coming parliament," Gad added.  

"For the Love of Egypt" has also won most of the votes of Egyptian expats, especially in the Arab Gulf where the turnout rates were high.

"This clearly shows that the anti-political Islam mood is now the most dominant among Egyptians abroad and at home and that the majority is in favour of a coalition that seeks to be cooperative with the Egyptian state in the coming parliament," said Al-Yazal, adding that "we were able to put an end to the myth of Nour's popularity in the Nile West Delta."

Al-Yazal said his coalition won 57 percent of the vote in the Nile West Delta constituency and 53 percent in north, middle and south Upper Egypt. 

The election law states that if a coalition or a political party wins more than 50 percent of the votes in a party list constituency it becomes entitled to win all of its seats. 

Ahram political analyst Amr Hashem Rabie said he expects that the second stage, scheduled for 22-23 November, will reflect the same mood.

"I do not believe that Nour will have any success in the second stage, especially in Cairo and North and Middle Delta where there will be cut-throat competition among the popular 'For the Love of Egypt' coalition and other secular coalitions," said Rabie. 

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