Islamists sweep 1st round of Egypt poll

Islamists sweep 1st round of Egypt poll

Islamists sweep 1st round of Egypt poll

Election officials count ballots for the parliamentary elections in Cairo, Egypt. AP photo

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, emerging as the biggest winner in the first round of parliamentary elections, is seeking to reassure Egyptians that it will not sacrifice personal freedoms in promoting Islamic law.

The deputy head of the Brotherhood’s new political party, Essam el-Erian said that the group is not interested in imposing Islamic values on Egypt, home to a sizable Christian minority and others who object to being subject to strict Islamic codes.

“We represent a moderate and fair party,” el-Erian said of his Freedom and Justice Party. “We want to apply the basics of Shariah law in a fair way that respects human rights and personal rights,” he said, referring to Islamic law. The comments were the clearest indication that the Brotherhood was distancing itself from the ultraconservative Islamist Al-Nour Party, which appears to have won the second-largest share of votes in the election’s first phase.

The Brotherhood recently denied in a statement that it seeks to form an alliance with the Al-Nour Party in parliament, calling it “premature and mere media speculation,” Associated Press reported. On Dec. 3, el-Erian made it clear that the Brotherhood does not share Al-Nour’s more hard-line aspirations to strictly enforce Islamic codes in Egyptians’ daily lives. “We respect all people in their choice of religion and life,” he said.

Results evoke mixed reactions

Al-Nour party said Dec. 2 it plans to push for a stricter religious code in Egypt. Party spokesman Yousseri Hamad said his party is willing to cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as with secular and liberal forces “if it will serve the interest of the nation.”

Still, Salafi groups speak confidently about their ambition to turn Egypt into a state where personal freedoms, including freedom of speech, women’s dress and art are constrained by Islamic Shariah codes. “In the land of Islam, I can’t let people decide what is permissible or what is prohibited. It’s God who gives the answers as to what is right and what is wrong,” Hamad said. “If God tells me you can drink whatever you want except for alcohol, you don’t leave the million things permitted and ask about the prohibited.”

Initial results have evoked mixed reactions. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed deep concern. “The process of Islamization in Arab countries is very worrying,” Barak told Israel’s private Channel Two television. But he added, however, that it was “premature to say how these changes will affect the region.”

The Gaza Strip’s militant Hamas rulers welcomed early indications of election success for Islamist parties. “It is a very good will mean more and more support for Palestinian issues,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told Agence France-Presse. “The relationship of the next regime in Egypt with the Palestinians will be very good.”

Meanwhile, Egypt’s new government will be announced on Dec. 7, state owned al-Ahram newspaper quoted Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri as saying, Reuters reported. The announcement of the government was postponed from yesterday to Dec. 7, Ganzouri said, because of difficulties in appointing a new interior minister hours before the parliamentary election’s first stage run-offs.