Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Official: Egypt Will Hold Parliamentary Elections in September

The following article is published in PajamasMedia. The full text is provided here for your convenience.

By Barry Rubin

The military junta ruling Egypt has announced that parliamentary elections will be held in September and presidential elections in November.

Rather than spending the next five months complaining, those who aren't supporting the Muslim Brotherhood better get started actually working and organizing. I'll analyze this a lot more in the coming months but briefly the blocs are as follows:

Islamists: Muslim Brotherhood says it is aiming at getting 30 percent of the seats. I think they'll succeed. A smaller, moderate Islamist party--whose members split from the Brotherhood because they say it is too extremists--would be lucky to get any seats.

Left: There are several neo-Marxist parties but no clue whether they will work together or run separately. In either case they are unlikely to get many seats, and none at all if they compete for the limited votes that might be obtained. Probably no more than 5 percent.

Conservatives: The ex-regime's politicians including leaders of the ruling National Democratic Party. This group could do better than outsiders expect. If they unite and put forward coherent positions, they could take as much as 20 percent.

Nationalists: If Amr Moussa organizes his own radical nationalist party and does a good job, it might get up to 40 percent, especially if he brings in a lot of the former supporters of the Mubarak regime. This is the only group I think that could have a larger bloc than the Islamists.

Centrist pro-democracy forces: This would be the party of Muhammad ElBaradei, Ayman Nour, and the Facebook kids. I doubt it would get more than 15 percent, almost all in Cairo and Alexandria.

Obviously, these are tentative figures that will have to be revised as we see whether these groups do get organized and are able to remain united. The Brotherhood will definitely not "take over" Egypt this year--especially since Amr Moussa is the most likely president and the Brotherhood won't run a candidate. But it will have lots of influence and a key role in writing the new constitution.

Presumably, the Brotherhood will make deals to get religious and social clauses it wants in exchange for compromises on things it doesn't care about very much. Egypt, then, will take a big step closer to Islamism and an even bigger step toward being hostile to the United States and Israel, while moving into a virtual alliance with Hamas.

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