Egypt’s first free election in decades gives Islamist parties upper hand in parliament

THE final results in Egypt’s first free election in decades have confirmed an overwhelming majority for Islamist parties.

The Muslim Brotherhood took a 38 per cent share of the seats in the new parliament, with Islamists of various persuasions having taken around two thirds of the seats.

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has promised that all Egyptians will have a voice, but Islamists are set to wield major influence over a constitution to be drafted by a 100-strong body that the new parliament will help pick.

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According to final results of the staggered election issued by the high elections committee yesterday, the Brotherhood’s electoral alliance took a 38 per cent share of the seats, while the hardline Islamist Al-Nour Party won 29 per cent of list seats. The liberal New Wafd and Egyptian Bloc coalition came third and fourth respectively.

The Revolution Continues coalition, dominated by youth groups at the forefront of the protests that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, attracted less than a million votes and took just seven of the 498 seats up for grabs in the lower house.

Under a complex electoral system, two-thirds or 332 of the seats in lower house are decided by proportional representation on closed party lists. The other third are contested by individual candidates.

The elections committee did not give results for individual seats, although the Brotherhood’s alliance said it expects to take 41 per cent of all seats in the lower house.

Having secured the biggest bloc, the Brotherhood named Saad al-Katatni, a leading Brotherhood official who sat in the old parliament as an independent, as speaker of the assembly.

While the strong Islamist performance has alarmed liberal Egyptians and western governments who had close ties to Mubarak, it is unclear if rival Islamists will team up in the assembly.

The FJP congratulated Katatni on his new role, voicing its “confidence that Katatni will be at the same distance from all representatives, either those of the FJP or other parties”.

This would “uphold the principle of democracy and consolidate the rules of political participation”, the party said.

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The rise of the Islamists in Egypt’s first election since Mubarak’s overthrow in February last year marks a monumental shift from the past when parliament was a compliant body stuffed with members of his National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood was officially banned but tolerated.

The arrival of a new generation of politicians with a genuine popular mandate suggests parliament will seek to temper the power of the ruling military council, which has pledged to step aside at the end of June.

Katatni, who sat on the Brotherhood’s policy committee, said the new assembly would be “reconciliatory”.

“The priorities are meeting the demands of the revolution, including the rights of the injured and those killed in the uprising,” he said.

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