Egypt's vote: A mandate for Islamists?

Religious parties trounce the secular groups that helped spearhead the country's revolution. A triumph for democracy — or the beginning of a 'grand jihad'?

Egyptian election officials count ballots in Cairo this week
(Image credit: Shawn Baldwin/Corbis)

Egypt's Islamists are claiming a decisive victory this week in the first elections since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The well-organized Muslim Brotherhood captured roughly 40 percent of the vote, as expected, and ultraconservative Islamists finished a surprisingly strong second. Emboldened religious parties are already stepping up pressure on the military to hasten the transition to civilian rule, though there are two more election rounds to come. (This week, ballots were only cast in one-third of Egypt's provinces.) Will Islamists rule the new Egypt?

Yes. And that's a disaster: "It would be hard to overstate what a catastrophe the Egyptian elections are shaping into," says Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review. The Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Salafist Muslims of the Nour party can justifiably cement their power with a newly drafted constitution and the election of a new president. The Arab Spring, supposedly a victory for secular democrats, is increasingly looking like the start of a "grand jihad."

"Democracy project triumph: Islamists surge ahead in Egyptian elections"

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Let's not panic quite yet: Egyptian liberals, Israel, and many in the U.S. will reflexively "freak out" about the Islamists' triumph, says Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy. But we should all calm down. At this point, we should accept "the results of a free and fair election" and focus on "the importance of the Islamist forces demonstrating their commitment to democratic rules, cooperation, and tolerance." If this result helps speed the transition from military to democratic civilian rule, it's a step forward.

"Egypt and the Arab election season"

Besides, the real mandate is for democracy: Obviously, this election was a "heavy blow" to Egypt's secular parties, says Dan Murphy in The Christian Science Monitor, and proof of the Muslim Brotherhood's "muscle." But Egypt's liberals will "have another chance to try to really organize and run as a cohesive force" in the elections that will be held once Egypt has a new constitution and president. In a "true democracy," Islam will be a potent force, but not the only force.

"Upshot of Egypt elections: Islamists are here to stay"

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