Egypt Likely to Reject Sharia Law

Wednesday, 30 May 2012 06:21 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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The results of the Egyptian presidential elections indicate that the final run-off elections will most likely be between Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Ahmed Shafiq, who represents the old guard of the Mubarak regime.

The results indicate that Mursy got around 25 percent of the vote compared to Shafiq’s 24 percent. But closer analysis indicates that Egyptians are likely to wind up with a secular — not Islamist — government when all the votes are counted in the final run-off election.

protester.jpg
An Egyptian protests against Ahmed Shafiq in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on May 30.
(Getty Images)
It’s important to look at the results of all of the candidates and the likely rationale for those who voted for them.

Other candidates include Hamdeen Sabahy, a left wing liberal and strong supporter of Gamal Abdel Nasser (22 percent), Abol Fotouh, who is presented as a ‘liberal’ Muslim (17 percent), and Amr Moussa, the former Egyptian foreign minister during Mubarak’s regime, and former head of the Arab League (12 percent).

The results reveal an electorate that was pulled in three directions:

1. Those who are very serious about implementing strict Sharia Law in the country — the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi supporters — voted for Morsi (25 percent).

2. Those who care more for social justice supported Fotouh and Sabahy (combined total of 39 percent )

3. Those who want to regain the stability that was lost after the fall of the Mubarak regime supported Shafiq and Moussa (combined total of 36 percent).

An analysis of the election results leads to 10 important conclusions.

1. There are clear indications that the MB has suffered a significant decline in popularity in the last few months since its historical control of Parliament with more than 45 percent of the vote.

Given that most Salafi groups (who won more than 25 percent of parliamentary votes) ultimately supported the MB candidate, it was expected that Morsi would get around 70 percent of the vote. Many leaders of the MB were confident that their candidate would win the presidential race in the first round.

The results therefore come as a blow to Islamists. The reasons for the decline of the MB include bad performance in Parliament, broken promises, and a very negative image among some Islamist parliamentarians. Morsi’s lack of charisma only made matters worse.

2. A significant percentage of Egyptians are against Egypt becoming a religious state since almost all supporters of Shafiq, Sabahy and Moussa (a combined total of 58 percent of all voters) support a secular state.

A small percentage of Fotouh’s supporters could also be added to the latter group since some liberals supported him based on expectations that he would not adopt strict Sharia law and that he would be tolerant of personal freedoms. Fotouh's supporters would not support an MB candidate they deem to be too radical.

3. Shafiq (24 percent) has a good chance to win the presidential race as he will certainly draw support from Moussa supporters (12 percent) as well as those who voted for Sabahy and Fotouh.

Moreover, we can assume that most Egyptians who did not vote this time around are likely to support a more secular government since the pro-Islamists probably turned out in great numbers already. Shafik can use this phenomenon to gain a winning edge over Moussa.

4. Shafiq may be able to guarantee his success if he convinces Sabahy to become his vice president, which would give him a possible combined total of 36 percent plus almost all of the votes that went to Moussa (12 percent), and Sabahy (22 percent).

While it seems difficult to fathom a coalition between a former guard of the Mubarak regime and a left wing Nasserist, the possibility should not be discounted.

Sabahy had previously noted his respect and friendship with Shafik. While the two differ significantly on several political issues, they share a clear desire to stand against Egypt becoming a religious state.

5. The real problem that faces the liberal wing in Egypt (or those who are against a religious state controlled by strict Sharia law) is that they are divided.

Several liberals may be ready to support the MB candidate in the final race against Shafiq as they see the latter as a return to Mubarak.

Unfortunately, this could be similar to the situation in Iran, when liberals supported Khomeini during the Iranian Revolution against the Shah, which resulted in the extreme suppression of freedoms for decades under barbaric and inhumane Sharia laws.

It would be a big mistake for Egyptian liberals to support Shafiq against Mursy since they would be risking another Iran scenario, or worse.

6. Several reports indicated that the Salafi groups, who promised to support Aboul Fotouh did not do so. This may be the result of a possible plot by the MB to drive a wedge between Fotouh and his supporters by having some of their factions announce support for him.

Indeed, many liberals pulled their support immediately after these Salafi groups declared their support for Fotough. Liberals simply felt that Fotouh cannot be a candidate for both liberals and Salafists at the same time. They are simply on opposite poles of the political spectrum.

7. Even if Mursy wins the final run-0ff, the election results indicate that the Egyptian would fiercely resist any attempt to turn Egypt into the Wahhabi or Iranian style of government. A huge percentage of the electorate (at least the combined 58 percent who supported Shafiq, Sabahi and Moussa) clearly want a secular rather than a religious state.

8. Egyptians fall into two competing camps — those who want the country to adhere to strict Sharia law, and those who want it to remain a secular state.

This carries the potential possibility of a civil war since the views of both groups totally contradict one another at such a basic level.

Liberals are happy to have Islamists practice their faith in mosques but Islamists are not ready to give liberals basic freedoms.

In such a standoff, a strong military presence may help save Egypt from the Islamists. They may interfere if necessary.

9. The results also indicated an overall lack of accuracy of Egyptian polling. Many— if not most of the major polls — failed to pick Morsi as the leading candidate.

10. Overall, the results give me great hope that a secular president will emerge from the fray.

The final results will not only determine the direction of Egypt for the foreseeable future, but may also affect US-Arab relations for some time to come.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.

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