Islamists on Track to Win Egyptian Election

I predicted earlier this year that the Arab Spring would likely result in further Islamic radicalization of the Arab world. According to The New York Times, the “mainstream” Muslim Brotherhood has captured about forty percent of the Egyptian vote, based on early election results. “Mainstream” in Egypt is a decidedly relative term. It is important to note that the teachings of Muslim Brotherhood “scholars” like Sayyid Qutb inspired folks like current al-Qaeda leader and terrorist mastermind, Ayman al-Zawahiri. To make matters worse, a second, ultraconservative group of Islamists captured a further twenty-five percent of the vote; the combined Islamist bloc therefore represents 65 percent of the total.

According to The New York Times:

“That victory came at the expense of the liberal parties and youth activists who set off the revolution, affirming their fears that they would be unable to compete with Islamists who emerged from the Mubarak years organized and with an established following. Poorly organized and internally divided, the liberal parties could not compete with Islamists disciplined by decades as the sole opposition to Mr. Mubarak.”

While voting has taken place in only about a third of Egypt’s provinces, these areas included some of the nation’s most liberal areas. As such, the representation of Islamist groups is more likely to increase as the voting continues. Given that Egypt is the largest Arab country by population, this development is likely a major blow to regional stability and American interests.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
This entry was posted in Defense, Energy Security, International Security, Middle East, Policy, Politics, Predictions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Islamists on Track to Win Egyptian Election

  1. hey Sean –

    Listen to this and tell me what you think: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/28/142859815/op-ed-islamists-can-adopt-democracy. Islamist governments worldwide can be consistent with democracy, and often are, particularly when not supported by the US.

    The NYT’s analysis is very wrong. Fieldwork in Egypt has taught me how important the youth wing of the muslim brotherhood was actually in the expansion of the jan/feb revolution. The liberal groups/wings hardly were sufficient to drive the revolution, due to their limited numbers, lack of mainstream organizing, and populist appeal.

    Anyhow, this is the only response I can leave since I’m so busy but let’s talk/debate this somewhere publicly sometime soon. Hopefully at least over some lunch in the bay area!

    • Thanks, Ramesh. I quickly read the first part of the analysis and noticed that the only Arab country he mentioned with a “working” democracy as Morroco. Of course he ignored Lebanon (now controlled by Hezbollah), and the West Bank (controlled by Hamas). He also failed to mention Algeria as well. The only reason Turkey has been able to keep it together is because its strong military kept the Islamists in check (and Turkey is also obviously not an Arab country). Then there are Pakistan and Iran, which are also Muslim democracies (also mostly non-Arab). Hopefully the military maintains enough power to counteract the Islamists, but this power will likely erode over time as in Turkey.

      I completely agree with your analysis that there weren’t enough liberal Egyptians to carry the revolution without the muscle of the more organized Islamist groups. This is, of course, one of the reasons why I believed and still believe that the Arab Spring was a huge negative for American interests.

      I could eventually be wrong. In fact, I hope I am. Only time will tell.

      Have you gotten a chance to return to Egypt to see how things have progressed?

      • hey Sean, Thanks for the feedback. Great discussion.

        Re Egypt – I’m planning on getting back there as we speak : ) !

        It should be interesting to see how this all turns out. My interests of course with all this are less specific to the US, but more focused on a general belief in democracy and equal rights, even if that produces governments that may have grievances with the West. And my only point with the NPR interview is that in some cases Islam and democracy happily co-exist, and in fact may also work well with the US’s interests, though in other cases they certainly do not. Of course this all depends on the US approach toward foreign policy, which to me is the big question. To me, that’s an area that warrants a great deal of reflection and dare I say it, soul searching.

  2. joesix says:

    Fareed Zakaria just wrote a piece about how we shouldn’t this as a sign of defeat for moderate Muslims in Egypt. There’s a lot of voting fraud expected and the youth are still a driving force in this process advocating for democracy and peace.

  3. Scott Erb says:

    I’m actually not bothered by this. The reality is that Islamist parties are strong and ultimately have to be part of the transition. I don’t see it in the US interest to support continued authoritarian regimes or dictatorships that try simply to repress Islamic and liberal groups. Ultimately US support for such regimes only enhances the image of the US as an enemy, and given the demographic changes they can’t last anyway. The change in the Arab world is good, it’s moving away from authoritarian repression to a more open future. However, it may take a generation or so to really play itself out, and there will be ups and downs along the way.

    • Scott, I would argue that authoritarian repression is far more stable, rational, and predictable than repression based on Sharia law. These developments are inherently destabilizing for the region, and provide even more compelling reasons why the US needs to put its efforts to develop both traditional and alternative energy resources into overdrive. The region is becoming increasingly controlled by our enemies, and is likely irreversible.

      • Scott Erb says:

        Sharia law need not be repressive. There is a lot of misunderstanding of Islam and political Islam, I think. It’s also a force that has to respond to public opinion and is changing in form. The events may be destabilizing for the region, but I find it a necessary destabilization that should have been embraced sooner. The authoritarians were drawing out the Ottoman like political culture of authority and tyranny. It worked for the generation around when they came to power, but with half the Arab population under 22 or 23 (I’ve read both), I think the force for change could not be held back, nor should it be. Also, I don’t know who you count as “our enemies,” but I do not count the Muslim Brotherhood as our enemy, nor do I count many variants of political Islam as an enemy. In fact, I see that as a very dangerous assumption to make, it takes governments just forming and already defines them in a negative light. They didn’t like us going to war in Iraq, perhaps, but people there don’t really like al qaeda either. We can have a solid relationship with them. The more I learn about the reality of the amorphous and changing nature of political Islam, the more convinced I am that trying to repress it makes it more angry and extreme. Allowing it to express itself and be open, even with the responsibility to govern, is progress. Yes, if some group goes a Taliban route we should oppose it, but we certainly shouldn’t assume that path is likely.

  4. pino says:

    I predicted earlier this year that the Arab Spring would likely result in further Islamic radicalization of the Arab world.

    You did, and I think that many would have agreed with you. I think I was pretty sure that the governments coming out of these nations was going to be decidedly Islamic. My hope is that they remain Democratic and over time, people begin to enact more Liberal governments.

    I’m not convinced that a totalitarian stable nation is better than an elected unstable one.

    • Scott Erb says:

      I think they will, but it could be a generational thing. The youth as they come of age and put pressure on the governments aren’t going to accept reactionary Islamic puritanism or extremism. Globalization is real and becoming a part of Arab culture as well, especially among the youth. This won’t be a quick change, but I don’t see any other way it can happen. I also think there isn’t much we can or should do, it’s for the people of the Arab world to decide their future.

  5. Alan Scott says:

    Scott,

    ” The change in the Arab world is good, it’s moving away from authoritarian repression to a more open future. ”

    Good, like in Iran? President Obama really screwed up by not getting behind the protesters of Iran in 2009.

    • Scott Erb says:

      The Iranian protesters in 2009 made it very clear that if the US tried to ‘get behind them’ that would discredit their movement in the eyes of other Iranians and make it easier for the government to dismiss them or put them down. Even Iranians who want change don’t want to be seen as somehow being pawns of the Americans. “Getting behind” the protesters in 2009 would have not only been unwanted by the protesters, but would have been an insanely stupid thing for Obama to have done.

      One reason Iran is racheting up pressure is that the conservatives are seeing their grip starting to loosen. Moderates had won every election and the country had liberalized up until 2004. It was the ability of the conservatives to use anti-Americanism that allowed them to win the Majles and the Presidency for the first time. Now that the Iraq war is over and anger at the US abating, they’re hoping that a strike on an alleged nuclear facility or some response to the British embassy attack will ignite Iranian nationalism and push people back towards strong support of the government. Iran’s provocations are less about the outside world then about their domestic situation — it’s the tail wagging the dog, as it were!

  6. Alan Scott says:

    Scott,

    The Mullahs had a moment of vulnerability in 2009. We did nothing and they were able to use Soviet style repression to crush the protesters . We used pressure in Egypt to ease out Mubarek. That type of pressure was lacking in Iran. Right now we refuse to pressure Iran’s central bank. Obama talked about doing it and asked Congress to take action . Now we hear from Congress that the Administration is backing away from that. As always they are showing weakness, when strength is called for .

    All during the Soviet era, American support for Eastern bloc freedom groups helped keep them alive.

  7. Alan Scott says:

    Scott,

    The attack on the British embassy was retaliation for Britain severing all ties to Iran’s central bank.

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