(The Nile in Cairo, July 2008/Daniel Mayer)

Islamists look set to dominate the next Egyptian parliament, but mutual suspicion between the two main groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nour Party, makes it unlikely they will join in an exclusive governing alliance.

The split in the Islamist camp leaves scope for liberals and secularists to play a part in the first post-election government and reduces the chances of any one group restoring the kind of de facto one-party rule that Egypt experienced from the 1950s until a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak on February 11.

The Nour Party, created this year after Mubarak’s fall, is the largest of Egypt’s new Salafi parties, which draw support from ultra-conservative Muslims who try to emulate the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his 7th-century companions.

Its success in the first round of parliamentary elections, with 24.4 percent of the vote, has been the biggest surprise in the new political landscape. Most analysts expected the Salafis as a whole to win 10 to 15 percent of the vote.

Essam el-Erian, vice-president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told Reuters on Monday it was too early to say what form a ruling coalition might take because less than one third of parliamentary seats have been decided.