Election results sound warning bells at home and abroad: Adel Darwish reports on the rise of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt.

Author:Darwish, Adel

THE RESULT OF LAST MONTH'S EGYPTIAN parliamentary elections launched a chorus of wailing from Arab and American Cassandaras who have short memories and little appreciation of historic realities.

Three rounds of elections, lasting five weeks, were marred by allegations of fraud, bribery and violence. The elections highlighted the chasm between the secular opposition parties, compared to the Muslim Brothers, who increased their number of seats six fold. The Americans, who are wrongly claiming credit for the wave of elections sweeping through the region, either deliberately ignored, or more likely remain ignorant of a long history of representation in Egypt.

What we want, Egyptian reformists, both within and without President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) insist, is to restore what existed in Egypt before 1960 when Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser imposed one-party rule. What neither the NDP, nor the opposition want is for President George W. Bush and his Neo-cons to impose 'democracy by war and invasion' in the area he calls the "greater Middle East", a region of which he has little understanding.

The Egyptians have been voting since the 'High Council' was established in 1824 by Mohammed Ali Pasha, the founder of the modern state. By 1914 and the beginning of World War I, it had matured into a flourishing, Westminster-style, multi-party parliamentary system, which was only extinguished by the 1952 military coup that brought Colonel Nasser to power.

Until 1954, power rotated between four parties: the conservative old National Party; the liberal, middle class Al-Wafd; the centrist Constitutional Liberals; and Saadieeyn a splinter group of Al-Wafd. Lesser parties and trends joined forces with larger ones, or remained in opposition.

The Muslim Brothers, founded as a Muslim evangelist association in 1928, did not manage to win a single seat in parliament; their wanton violence, including the assassination of politicians and judges and the bombing of cinemas and theatres, alienated the traditionally peaceful Egyptians. However, their ideas influenced others such as Young Egypt (YE), under the guise of which, they have gained a handful of seats since 1984, when YE became the Labour Party.

The Brothers, although not legally recognised as a political party, have fielded candidates as independents, to win 18% (88 out of 454) of seats. These figures sent shock waves well beyond Egypt's borders and were regarded as 'a serious warning' by many...

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