Last Thursday, I was bombarded by telephone calls from newspapers, research centres and friends around the world asking about the results of the Egyptian elections. It was the end of the day, and final results of the first round were not yet out, except for some that clearly indicated that the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) – and the Nour Party were in the lead.
This was enough to raise questions about what was happening in Egypt and about future scenarios here, and whether the Arab Spring would usher in various forms of fundamentalist political Islam that have been made infamous by models in Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan – and are largely unwelcome by the world community.
I was quick to note that political Islam comes in many shapes and sizes – such as liberal, fundamentalist and radical types – and that the models of Tunisia and Morocco (and previously Turkey) demonstrate that a combination of liberalism and moderate centrist Islamist doctrine is possible. I was then asked if it were possible for a coalition to be formed between Egypt’s liberal bloc and the FJP, or if the latter would prefer to ally itself with the Nour Party since no single party was likely to win an absolute majority.
It seemed like a complex riddle, a mental exercise, more than a genuine political question, since two more rounds of elections had yet to be fought. This was my assertion – to deflect questions until more information became available and the picture became clearer.
Nonetheless, this crucial question remains in my mind. I believe that the democratic model is incomplete without the presence of a “political medium” that represents the critical mass for national political consensus, even if it includes the left and centre-right. This is where rotation of power prevails without great jolts.
But this seemed unlikely in light of the current, highly polarised atmosphere between liberals and Islamists in Egypt, which has ended up pushing them even farther apart in the political arena.
The alternative scenario of a large right-wing coalition between the MB and Salafists is possible since their ideologies and doctrines are similar – or at least they share the same hostility towards civic thought and politics that are despised by religious groups.
Either of these scenarios is possible. Is it possible to strike a balance in the political arena? Or must the scales entirely tip towards the right to reveal the disputes that emerged during election campaigns, namely, that ideological accord is more pertinent than political savvy?