Scenarios for Egypt's future

Abdel-Moneim Said , Monday 5 Dec 2011

The implications of this week's landmark parliamentary vote cannot be determined until elections are over

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?‎

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