Islamists rise in Egypt

A preliminary count of the votes in Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood–led coalition is solidly ahead.

Egypt’s main Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, appeared to be leading the first round of parliamentary elections to be held in the country since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, in February. After demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against the ruling military council left 42 civilians dead last week, many feared the voting would be marred by violent protests. But this week the square was deserted as roughly a third of the country voted in record numbers. Preliminary vote counts suggested that a Muslim Brotherhood–led coalition was solidly ahead, with 40 percent of the vote or more. But this week’s polling is just the start. Further rounds of parliamentary elections will continue until March, and an election to choose a president is due to be held in June.

The question isn’t whether the hard-line Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood will win this election, said Samuel Tadros in, but “what the size of their victory will be.” Their coalition is far better organized than its rivals, with thousands of activists on the streets and online to help voters navigate the complex electoral ballot. They have fared well in this round, which covers the relatively liberal cities of Cairo and Alexandria. Once their rural strongholds vote in coming weeks, the Islamists’ victory “will be nothing short of a tsunami.”

That wave will wash away Egypt’s hard-won freedoms, said Eric Trager in The Brotherhood “remains firmly illiberal,” believing that homosexuals should be stoned, women should be silenced, and thieves should have their hands cut off. The movement’s “theocratic political vision” will come to define the new Egypt.

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Only if the generals allow it, said Thanassis Cambanis in The​ The military council still has not agreed to give any elected official—even the eventual president—authority over the armed forces. The generals will likely treat whichever party wins control of the People’s Assembly “as an afterthought.” The “struggle to end military rule in Egypt” has only just begun.

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