It seems apparent that the Islamist movement in Egypt has opted to stay away from the recent political crisis and prefers instead to preoccupy itself with arrangements for legislative elections, scheduled for March 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party have intensified their preparations for this event by holding internal elections to select their candidates and talks with independent figures and interested parties about standing for elections.
In the meantime, Younis Mkhion was elected unopposed as head of the Salafist al-Nour Party to succeed Imad Abdul Ghafoor, who defected with other members from the party and inaugurated al-Watan Party a few days ago.
Al-Nour Party’s general assembly held an emergency meeting yesterday [Jan. 9] to elect its new supreme body. Mustafa Khalifa withdrew to the advantage of his sole opponent, Younis Mkhion, who announced his unopposed victory as head of the party.
Shortly after being elected, Mkhion said in a speech, "We seek to apply the Islamic Shariah law in Egypt and we will work to purify all laws that contradict Islamic Shariah.” He added, “The country is for all of us and we have no desire to monopolize power.”
In his speech, Mkhion tried to reassure Copts. "You are completely safe and secure, and you will see nothing but righteousness and straightforwardness," he said. He addressed women by saying, "There is no law on earth that has given women their rights like Islamic Shariah law."
Mkhion told Al-Hayat, "Al-Nour Party will immediately start its internal preparations to be ready for the legislative milestone." He stressed that his party “is open to entering into electoral alliances with other Islamist movements.”
The new head of al-Nour Party confirmed that talks are underway between Islamist forces to form an alliance in the upcoming elections, and noted that his party "is open to everyone — Islamists and civil forces — though we prefer to ally with Islamists." He stressed the need for any alliance to preserve "our real size" and said, "We will work to strengthen our presence in the street."
In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) adopted a new approach in choosing their candidates for the legislative elections scheduled in March. This approach is based on selecting candidates through internal elections, where members of the different jurisdictions and electorates have the right to vote in preparation for the first disqualification process. This process takes place through the administrative bureaus that provide central leaders with two or three lists to choose from.
A leading source within the Brotherhood told Al-Hayat, "The party’s elections take place in electoral districts and regions throughout various provinces. All members of the Brotherhood have the right to run for the elections and vote. Before these elections start, nominations must be submitted to the administrative offices, which conduct the initial disqualification process by providing the senior leaders — of the Guidance Bureau and the FJP’s supreme body — with two or three lists, from which they choose. Thus, they will have the final word in determining the lists." The source noted that the selection process will be completed in at most two weeks, and pointed out that the final lists will be pending until the allies take a final decision. He added that the Brotherhood’s list will include new figures, rather than figures that have held posts as either ministers or governors.
The same source confirmed to Al-Hayat that the Brotherhood leaders who were appointed in the Shura Council recently (most notably Essam el-Erian, FJP’s vice president, and Sobhi Saleh and Gamal Heshmat, leaders of the FJP) will not stand for the future legislative elections, but they will continue their mission in the Shura Council and will run for the Shura council elections scheduled next year.
Al-Hayat asked the source about the candidacy of Saad Katatni, the head of FJP, in the upcoming elections. He replied that the Brotherhood Shura Council will meet to make a final decision on this issue. Either he will stand for elections as head of a list for the governor of Qena in Upper Egypt — as a prelude to a push for the parliament — or he won’t for elections and will continue to lead the party.
As for the preparations of al-Watan Party (which is still being formed and includes defectors from the Salafist al-Nour Party), Yousri Hamad, a party leader, said that it will "adopt standards of competency, administrative capacities, integrity and good conduct in selecting its candidates." He noted that the party has already started to prepare lists and made an alliance with the controversial Salafist lawyer Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, the Development and Construction Party (the political wing of the Islamist Gamaa Islamiya group) and al-Asala party, which is the political wing of the Salafist Front. He explained that these parties will begin to choose their candidates and prepare their lists through the electoral groups that they formed in the various provinces before they combine them into unified lists.
For his part, the new head of the Salafist al-Asala party Ihab Shiha said that the party seeks to be represented in the next government and added that Egyptian liberalism has not diverged very much ideologically from religion. Shiha said at his first massed conference in Suez that the idea of al-Asala party is "to implement and support the Islamist project while not dividing the Salafist current." He noted that al-Asala doesn’t follow an organized group, but it supports religion — a distinctly Salafist approach.
In the meantime, leading sources in the Brotherhood revealed that Islamists intend to organize counter-demonstrators on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution (Jan. 25), which seems to be a show of force before parliamentary elections. The source told Al-Hayat: "The matter has not been resolved yet. Talks are underway between Islamists leaders in this regard. However, the movement tends to mobilize supporters in one of the major squares in Cairo and a number of Egyptian governorates," and stressed that "demonstrations are not monopolized by any one faction."