Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Seeking Salafi seats

Amany Maged assesses the Nour Party’s parliamentary prospects

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In the 2012 elections the Nour Party won 20 per cent of parliamentary seats, becoming the second largest party after the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Three years later the Muslim Brotherhood has been classified as a terrorist organisation and the public has lost faith in the wider Islamist trend. Though Salafist Calling and its political wing, the Nour Party, sided with the majority of the public demanding an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule during the 30 June Revolution, the question of whether the Nour Party remains capable of swimming with the political current and reaping a significant number of seats in the forthcoming parliament is a pertinent one.

Besides suffering from internal problems the Nour Party is the subject of a hostile campaign being waged by liberal forces. The “No to Religious Parties” drive clearly targets the Nour Party, and fears are regularly raised that it will serve as a backdoor to parliament for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Parties are legally obliged to include female and Coptic candidates in their election lists, no easy task for the Salafi Nour Party. Yet it is an obstacle the party has managed to overcome in the three election lists it has compiled for Delta and Upper Egyptian constituencies which were made public on Monday.

The female Nour Party members from different parts of the country who have already filed their candidacy applications include Soad Ghali, Samah Hosni Ibrahim, Manal Essam, Amal Ramadan Abdel-Hamid, Hanan Abdel-Hamid, Alia Hussein, Qadriya Hafez, Iman Ali, Sabah Ismail, Nabila Al-Sayed Ibrahim, Nashwa Ahmed Ibrahim, Nahla Fathi Ahmed, Sahar Al-Sayed Mohamed, Irene Boulos, Asma Ahmed, Nadia Abbas Rashid, Doaa Abdel-Ati, Iman Mahmoud Gharib, Hanan Al-Sayed, Jacqueline Youssef, Ragaa Abdel-Moneim, Awatef Ali Ibrahim, Hana Azab Faeq, Hager Mahmoud, Imtiyaz Mohamed Al-Sherif, Mona Mohamed Sobhi and Nermine Saadeddin Ibrahim. 

It remains unclear how these candidates will be promoted in the campaign. Will their photographs appear on campaign literature, or will they be represented by the Nour Party’s flower symbol?

Nour Party central committee member Ibrahim Ragheb says the choice is being left to individual candidates. Whether they are represented by a photograph or the party symbol will not, he says, affect their chances of success. “What matters to the party with respect to its women candidates,” insists Ibrahim, “is how they perform in the elections with or without a picture of themselves.”

“The Nour Party used its symbol rather than pictures of women candidates in the last parliamentary elections although it may not so this time round, or at least not in all electoral districts,” says Amr Hashem Rabie, deputy director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

“The party will try to respond to its critics by including pictures of some of its female candidates, especially the Coptic ones. Yet whether or not a symbol is substituted for the picture of the woman is unlikely to have much of an impact on the candidate’s election prospects.”

In the hope of repeating its 2012 success the Nour Party is attempting to woo voters by offering charitable services. It is distributing medicines and has held a number of fairs to distribute subsidised foodstuffs and school supplies. Many analysts, however, question whether the tactic is enough to replicate the election successes of three years ago.

Nour Party official Salah Abdel-Maaboud says the party has no ambitions to control the next parliament and will only be contesting 200 of the 568 parliamentary seats. In an interview on CBC Extra satellite TV channel’s Egypt Votes Maaboud said the party planned to field two candidates in districts where three seats are up for grabs, and one candidate in districts where two seats are being contested.

Maaboud described parliamentary representatives as service providers. Beyond their legislative and oversight functions their role, he said, was to try to solve the problems their constituents face in ways that serve the community. “All members of the Nour Party will abide by election rules. They will not use religious forums to promote their campaigns... The aim of the party is to participate effectively in parliament in order to alleviate the problems people face.”

Nour Party Vice-President Bassam Al-Zarqa stresses that the party has no desire to replace the Muslim Brotherhood in parliament.

“It would be folly for any party to even think of inheriting the Muslim Brotherhood’s mantle,” says Al-Zarqa. “The Brotherhood made enormous political mistakes and as a result placed itself in the worst possible position any political force could find itself in.”

“We will stand in opposition to the government in the event that its plans and projects do not agree with the dreams of the Egyptian people. We will not oppose the president, just the government,” added Al-Zarqa

Al-Zarqa predicts his party’s main competition will come from wealthy candidates spending huge amounts of money to buy votes. Money, he warns, may well decide the outcome in the vast majority of parliamentary seats which are reserved for independent candidates.

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