CAIRO — Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent.
The tally, with the two groups of Islamists together winning about 70 percent of the seats, indicates the deep cultural conservatism of the Egyptian public, which is expressing its will through free and fair elections for the first time in more than six decades.
This result only goes to underline the mistake made by Mubarak (an American ally now on trial for his life, a fate that must send an interesting message to other leaders in the region still prepared to work alongside the U.S.) in ceding so much of Egypt’s cultural space to the men in the mosque. Turkey’s Ataturk knew better.
Over at Secular Right Razib Khan has an acid response to this news:
Nevertheless I do recall back in the heady days of the Arab Spring some commenters infected by revolutionary fervor would scoff that the purported Islamist sympathies of the people. What this goes to show is that enthusiasm and hope does not translate into reality. If secular liberals in Egypt bow before the principle of popularity, then they accept that it is right and proper that their present their throats to their new overlords. I don’t view this as an apocalypse. It is what it is. But it was predictable.
The Times notes:
A coalition of parties founded by the young leaders of the revolt that unseated Mr. Mubarak won only a few percent of the seats…
Predictable indeed: Revolutions have been devouring their children for a long time.
If there is any glimmer of hope, however faint, it lies in the divisions between Muslim Brotherhood and the ultras.
The two groups have described very different visions and appear to be rivals rather than collaborators. The Brotherhood has said it intends to respect personal liberties and will focus on economic and social issues, gradually nudging the culture toward its conservative values. By contrast, the ultraconservatives, known as Salafis, put a higher priority on legislation on Islamic moral issues, like the consumption of alcohol, women’s dress and the contents of popular culture.
Even if we accept the Muslim Brotherhood’s reassurances at face value (a stretch, to put it mildly), something (not least their own history) tells me that it will see the greater threat to its position as coming from the Salafists, and will thus tack strongly in their direction.
I hope I’m wrong.