The first thing we need to understand is that this is only the first of three stages in the Parliamentary election. The second issue to consider is that while the Parliament is being renewed, the military remain in power. While the electoral process as delineated earlier this year calls for Presidential elections in 2012, the military can pull the plug at any time.
The next two stages of Parliamentary elections are likely to yield similar results to the first round, with probably minor changes. This, if projected, would give the Islamists somewhere between 340 and 350 seats out of 508. Obviously an overwhelming majority that would allow these two parties, should they work together to clearly control the legislative process. The Freedom and Justice Party, however, has publicly announced it will not ally with the Al-Nour Party; even under these conditions, the Muslim Brotherhood would control 203 to 206 seats - not a majority, but certainly the largest plurality by far. Al-Nour could control between 135 and 145 seats - the second largest plurality.
While there are differences between the Brotherhood and the Salafis, these differences seem to be more of tactics rather than goals. Both groups state a variation of the statement "God is our objective and the Qur'an our constitution" as the central tenet of their beliefs. Both groups mantain that there should be no separation between religion and politics and that Shar'ia (Muslim religious law) should be the law of the land. While the Brotherhood decided a couple of decades ago to abandon the military option to impose Shari'a in favor of political activism, the Salafis emphasize change in any possible way and they see the military option as valid. Osama Bin Laden defined himself as a Salafi, as does the movement he left behind; many of the current leaders of Al-Qaeda are indeed Egyptian members of the Salafi movement.
An Egyptian Parliament dominated by Islamist faction will very likely move the country towards an Islamic Republic with all its implications. Many of the gains of minority groups and women in Egyptian society will evaporate - either overnight or over a few years, but they will evaporate. Both groups, the Brotherhood and the Salafi, define their identity by the transformation of Egyptian society into an Islamic society; therefore even if a formal alliance between the two of them is off the table, they are likely to establish an informal alliance in the pursue of their ultimate goals. So what does all this mean?
Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna clearly stated his opposition to the western concept of separation of religion and politics and to the very concept of Modernity; he also promoted the elimination of any reform to Islam that took place after the 7th century. In this, his position was echoing that of his Wahabbi teachers. He saw, however, as his goal the transformation of the local society as the first goal. The Salafi movement gained traction during the 1970s and 1980s as the Sunni echo of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The Salafi philosophy sees as its goal a trans-national tranformation of society into an Islamic society; this means that they do not restrict their goals to Egyptian society. Both movements believe that a Muslim society should be ruled by a Muslim male who must also be a model of Islamic practice. In this, they remain close ideological kin to the Wahabbi in Saudi Arabia. The consequences of these two parties gaining the majority in the Egyptian Parliament are clear when it comes to the future of Egyptian society. What about the consequences for the West and for Israel?
Hassan Al-Banna's brother Abd Al-Rahman Banna went to British controlled Palestine in 1935 where he founded the Palestinian Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose first leader was the Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the historical figure revered to this day as the founder of Palestinian Nationalism. He was also a pro-Nazi activist in Hitler's payroll during World War II. The Palestinian Branch of the Muslim Brotherhood eventually redefine itself as the Islamic Resistance Movement, best known as Hamas.
Both, the Brotherhood and the Salafi have a strong presence in European mosques and dominate the life of many of the Muslim immigrants' enclaves in European cities. In many of these areas, today Shari'a is more prevalent than the law of the land, and local police forces are in many cases reluctant to go into these areas to enforce National law. When Shari'a comes in contradiction with constitutional rights, local authorities look the other way more often than not.
Both movements have clearly expressed their opinion that Western influence is corrupting Muslim society. Their ideologies, while different from each other, remain very closely related and more akin to the Shi'a Fundamentalist ideology of the Iranian Revolution than to the moderate Muslim religious ideology. the result is that as Iran saw no difficulty in supporting the Sunni Fundamentalist movements of Hamas and Al-Qaeda, they are also likely to try to cozy up to an Egypt dominated by the Brotherhood and the Salafi, fundamentally altering the balance of power in the Middle East and very likaly allowing Iran to take a role of dominant Middle Eastern power. The United States would be in a very bad position to contest this role, and probably American and Western interests in the region would be jeopardized.
As for Israel, an Egypt dominated by the Islamists is very likely to support Hamas and undermine the PLO, effectively removing any hope of meaningful dialogue or Peace negotiations. The Egyptian Parliament with an Islamic majority might also decide to forgo the Peace Treaty with Israel. Taking action on this would, however, require some more time. The Islamists would have to try and find ways to either gain control of the military or find modus vivendi with them before going to war with Israel - but that would be their goal. An Islamist dominated Egyptian Parliament might mean a new round of open warfare with Israel within 12-24 months.
It is not a pretty picture, but we cannot seat like the infamous three monkeys covering our eyes years and mouths. An Islamist assault on Israel would be but the first salvo in an all-out confrontation with the west, and when we consider the possibility of a Nuclear Iran, the prospects are grim indeed...
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