Egypt’s Salafis to Run Separately in Upcoming Elections
Egypt’s Al Nour Party announced last week that it had chosen a new leader to guide the party ahead of parliamentary elections later this year. Coming amid months of disagreement among the party’s top members over the influence of Salafi clerics within the movement’s political branch, the party’s former leader, Imad Abdul Ghafour, defected with over a fifth of the party’s MPs to form a new party, Al Watan, which will run a separate list from Al Nour in the upcoming elections.
The prospects for a split Salafi movement in Egypt’s next parliament indicate a possible slowing of momentum for the country’s ultraconservative political forces, who believe the state should be guided by a strict interpretation of Islam. “If you look at the Islamists on the one hand and the secular and liberal parties on the other, the liberal coalition seems to be consolidating while the Islamists are fragmenting,” stressed Emad Shahin, a scholar at the American University in Cairo and expert on Islamic movements in North Africa. Al Watan leaders were quick to assert that its differences with Al Nour were not ideological, but over the application of ideology in the pursuit of party goals. ”We’re trying to create a party that will be more inclusive of different ideologies, not just Salafi movements but all Islamic movements,” said Watan spokesman, Mohamed Nour.
If Watan leaders voiced reason for moderation and a willingness to form parliamentary alliances, Al Nour announced after Younis Makhioun‘s ascension to party leadership that, “It would be too hard to share one [electoral] list. It is in both sides’ best interests to take part in the parliamentary elections on its own.” Makioun addressed Egyptian Copts after his election and added, ”You are safe with us; we shall offer you nothing but welfare.”