Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1382, (22 - 28 February 2018)
Wednesday,20 March, 2019
Issue 1382, (22 - 28 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Inter-Islamist conflict

What approach will Islamists take towards the presidential election? Amany Maged reviews conflicting positions


Inter-Islamist conflict
Inter-Islamist conflict

Islamist groups — the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood (MB), Salafis and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya with all their factions — won 67 per cent of the seats in the 2012 parliamentary elections and went on to tip the balance in favour of Mohamed Morsi over Ahmed Shafik in the subsequent presidential poll.

After Morsi’s rule ended after a year with the 30 June 2013 Revolution the Islamists were divided. The Salafist Call, represented by the Nour Party, moved to put as much water between it and the Brotherhood as possible. When, subsequently, the Brotherhood called for a boycott of the 2014 presidential elections the Salafis called on the public to turn out and vote.

Four years later and the divisions between Islamist groups, and sometimes within the same factions, appear to have grown.

Many Muslim Brotherhood members, predictably, refuse to have anything to do with the poll. According to a spokesman the group “does not recognise the elections”.

“Any presidential election in which the legitimate president Mohamed Morsi is absent is constitutionally null and void and an infringement on the rights the people fought for in the January 2011 Revolution.”

According to the spokesman, “Morsi is still Egypt’s legitimate president”.

“He did not delegate anyone to run the country. The group does not, and will not, recognise any other election.”

Other members of the banned group take a more ambivalent view.

“The 2018 presidential election offers a chance for the Muslim Brotherhood to improve its position and push for the release of its leaders,” argues Mohamed Swidan, head of the group’s foreign relations and a member of the so-called Mahmoud Ezzat front. Mohamed Mahsoub, a Brotherhood leader who fled Egypt, appears to agree, though the details on how they think this can be achieved are unclear.

Another faction within the group, the Mohamed Kamal front, takes the opposite view. It considers any participation in the vote tantamount to normalising relations with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime. Young cadres within the Brotherhood, on the other hand, early stated they would vote for any candidate standing against Al-Sisi. But that was when Shafik, and later former military chief of staff Sami Anan, were intending to contest the election. Now both of them are out of the presidential race the factions within the Brotherhood are being forced to rethink their strategies.

Islamist thinker Tharwat Al-Kherbawi expects the group to call for a boycott of the elections, which will pit it against those members of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya who fled to Turkey and Qatar and have come out against a boycott in the hope it will allow for some form of reconciliation with the domestic opposition.

Tarek Al-Zomor, former president of the Development and Construction Party, the political arm of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, who is now in Qatar, believes the Brotherhood could play the elections in to improve its image. He told a Brotherhood website that instead of remaining marginalised the Islamists could return to the political scene via the presidential elections if they engineered a reconciliation with the liberal opposition.

“The 2018 election is a political opportunity which will not come again. It should be taken advantage of,” wrote Essam Teleima, a fugitive in Turkey and member of the group’s Shura Council.

Meanwhile, the Nour Party, the political arm of the Salafist Call, has urged voters to turn out and cast their ballots on election day. The party has endorsed President Al-Sisi as the most suitable candidate to lead Egypt towards stability.

The Nour party’s position has riled many other Islamists. Former Brotherhood leader Ibrahim Al-Zaafarani demanded in a post on Facebook that the Salafist Call disband the Nour Party.

“Honest advice to our brothers in the Nour Party... I call on our brothers in the Nour Party to quickly disband,” he wrote, arguing the party’s existence implicated Salafist Call members in sin and undrmined Islamists on the local and international fronts.

A full-scale social media battle is now being waged between the Brotherhood and Salafis.

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