Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1268, (29 October - 4 November 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Salafists perform poorly

Does the Salafist Nour Party have a future after its poor performance in the first round of the parliamentary elections, asks Amany Maged

Salafists perform poorly
Salafists perform poorly
Al-Ahram Weekly

As Al-Ahram Weekly predicted, the Nour Party won no victories in the first round of the parliamentary elections. Perhaps one of the main reasons for the Salafist-oriented Party’s poor showing in the polls was, as the Weekly earlier observed, its considerable decline in popularity, although various other factors were also involved.

At the time of writing, we cannot know how the party’s candidates will fare in the run-offs scheduled for 27 and 28 October. But it is fairly certain that the party will come away with few seats in the 2015 parliament, raising questions both about the reasons for the party’s failure and its political future.

One major reason for the decline in the Nour Party’s support is, as Ahmed Ban, an expert on Islamist movements, has noted, that a large segment of the Salafist trend and its leaders have split off from the party.

This process began before the 30 June Revolution and has continued ever since. Many of its leaders have formed rival parties that have attracted support from Salafist groups and developed sizeable grassroots bases, among them the Watan Party headed by Emad Abdel-Ghafour and the Asala Party headed by Ehab Shiha.

This fracturing of the Salafist movement has been tangibly reflected in the Nour Party’s performance in the current elections. Judging by the results so far, it now represents only about 15 per cent of the Salafist trend.

Secondly, the party’s stance toward the 30 June Revolution and its decision to side with the state and support the 3 July roadmap caused it to lose the support of crucial segments of its support base that were sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

This erosion was particularly evident in the fact that Nour even failed to win in its traditional electoral strongholds such as Alexandria, Buheira and Matrouh. Anti-Nour propaganda by Muslim Brotherhood outlets has also contributed to this, however.

A third factor has been the party’s contradictory discourse, especially on the subjects of women and the Copts. Because of its inability to address these subjects clearly and unequivocally, it has forfeited the opportunity to win over other segments of the public and compensate for the losses accrued from the two factors mentioned above.

Fourth, the media has been instrumental in the deterioration of the Nour Party’s image. It has been systematically demonised in various quarters of the press, which have portrayed it as jockeying to succeed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and as willing to work with the West at the expense of Egyptian national interests.

 A fifth factor, though one that may not have been as influential as some believe, is the “No to Religious Parties” campaign that some liberal circles have lately inaugurated and the lawsuits filed against the party in an attempt to have it dissolved on the grounds that it violates the constitutional provision prohibiting the formation of political parties on a religious basis.

Sixth, the Egyptian electorate in general has grown averse to the Islamist presence in the political arena, having had its eyes opened by previous experience of this trend in power. The voters’ choices this time round are indicative of a change in the public mood and a desire for change.

Although the Salafist youth have urged the party’s leaders to withdraw from the run-offs, the party this week resolved to remain in the battle. The decision, “for the sake of national welfare” — a justification the party always cites for positions it believes will not go down well among its supporters — precipitated angry reactions within party ranks.

Despite appeals by some of its leaders for the party to withdraw from the polls and, indeed, from the political process altogether, Nour appears set on continuing until its last breath.

Clearly, the party has yet to fathom its dwindling popularity. Nour Party Chairman Younes Makhyoun has charged that the polling process was unfair and tainted, writing on his Facebook account, “These are the worst elections in the history of the Egyptian parliament. They will remain a black stain on this era forever.”

In a similar vein, Yasser Burhami, vice-president of the Salafist Calling, has denounced what he calls the “campaign of distortion and vilification” that the media has waged against the Nour Party.

He has said that many party members, especially the youth, have pleaded for the party to withdraw from the elections because of the injustices inflicted upon it. He has also pointed out that immediately after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s speech on the eve of the elections, state television broadcast a warning against the Nour Party.

The broadcast, Burhami said, took place “beneath the noses of the government,” but no action has been taken to remedy the wrong done against the Nour Party.

According to Makhyoun, those who had engineered the 2010 People’s Assembly elections were the same as the managers of the current parliamentary elections. Burhami has stated that rival parties mustered at least half a million voters in the first phase of the balloting to vote against Nour Party candidates, a figure brought about by anti-Nour Party “propaganda, lies and political money,” he said.

An additional pall was cast over the elections by the tragic assassination of Mustafa Abdel-Rahman, Nour Party secretary-general for North Sinai and the only candidate running for the party in the governorate. Abdel-Rahman was gunned down by two masked men on a motorcycle while he was on his way to evening prayers last Saturday.

What does the future now hold in store for the Nour Party? Reports suggests that the party will be unable to score notable successes in the run-offs in which it is fielding 25 single-ticket candidates. This would constitute an enormous setback, since it would become a party without teeth or a noticeable say in the forthcoming parliament.

But the party may be in for yet another blow if the judiciary rules in favour of plaintiffs who have filed suits to have it dissolved. Many analysts also believe that such a ruling could jeopardise the legitimacy of the forthcoming parliament.

The picture will not become clearer until after the results of the run-offs of the first phase are announced, and it will only become completely clear after the results come in from the second phase and its run-offs, yielding the composition of the 2015 parliament.

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