Salafis sense the best is yet to come in Egypt’s elections
The Salafi movement wants to model Egypt’s future on Islam’s past. If the first results of the country’s parliamentary elections are anything to go by, many Egyptians agree with them.
Ultra-conservative Islamists may have won 20 to 30 percent of the vote in the first leg of Egypt’s three-stage parliamentary vote, an outcome that has surprised and alarmed many Egyptians. They are worried about what this might mean for freedoms and tolerance in the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Salafis look certain to emerge as a vocal bloc in the first legislature since Hosni Mubarak was deposed, confirming the historic changes under way since the removal from power of a man who dealt with Islamists mostly as enemies of the state.
Their influence over officialdom could reach further still, depending on cooperation with other Islamists also doing well in the election, namely the long-established Muslim Brotherhood which looks set to win more seats than any other group.
Their role will also hinge on the system of government that emerges from a transitional period steered by the army generals who took over from Mubarak. The military has been silent on the election result, urging Egyptians to vote but not taking sides.
Though official results give little to go on — the final picture will not be totally clear until January — both the Salafis and others following the count say they are doing well.
The indications so far are heartening for Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a Salafi planning to run for the presidency in a June election. He sees the results as “a map” of how young Egyptians going to the polls for the first time had voted.
“There’s no doubt this is pleasing,” said the softly-spoken lawyer-and-politician with a long, grey beard, wearing a suit and tie in an interview on Egyptian television on Thursday.