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Perhaps the size of the turnout had something to do with the fine of 500 Egyptian pounds — around $85 — that the military will impose on those who did not cast their ballots. In a country where nearly half the people earn less than a dollar a day, the fine may have convinced most of them to make it to the polls. In Alexandria, the Globe and Mail reports that people brought their elderly parents to the polls, standing in line with them so they could avoid paying the fine. “You think any of these candidates can change anything? Of course not. Ask anyone here – wouldn’t see these lines without the fine,” said one voter.
Now that the Brotherhood is on the cusp of seizing power, what is it exactly it wants to do with it? Prior to the vote, the Brotherhood backed the military’s position on the Tahrir Square protestors, withdrawing its supports of the latest demonstrations early on. It made a deal with the military to move up the presidential election from July of 2013 to July of 2012. The Brotherhood also negotiated the electoral process itself and steered clear of suggesting an early return to civilian rule.
But the coming electoral victory appears to have emboldened the Islamists. Despite what FJP leaders say was a “convergence” of interests with the military in the past, the party is now demanding the right to form a government without interference from the military, and subsequently choose a civilian cabinet. This almost certainly won’t sit well with the military council because it is likely that parliament would want to set up its own process for writing a new constitution — a deadly threat to the military, which has made it clear it will tolerate no scrutiny of its budget, no change in the economic advantages members hold, and will expect to have a strong voice in running the new parliament.
“The Brotherhood wants a strong parliament and the military council wants a weak one. The reason the Brotherhood fought for parliament is because they’re going to use it as an agent of change,” says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. He adds that the path the FJP has chosen has put it on a collision course with the military.
That change is what has Egypt’s 10 million Coptic Christians so worried. Since Mubarak’s ouster, many violent incidents have taken place pitting extremist Muslims against the small Coptic communities. There have been murders of clergy, church burnings, oppression by local government officials, and just last month, a demonstration by Copts in Cairo that saw the military actually open fire on the demonstrators and run them over with armored personnel carriers. The violence has driven 100,000 Coptic families from the country with more leaving every month.
But the Copts have been in Egypt since the first century AD and most of them have no intention of leaving. Father Ishak, a priest at a Cairo church said, “We picked the Egyptian Bloc because it’s the most liberal group and because they are against religious parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood.” He added, “And if elections are free and fair, it will mean that Copts are more clearly represented and be more active in building a new Egypt.”
The Brotherhood will probably move cautiously in fulfilling its Islamist agenda. The military is still very powerful and is opposed to the idea of Egypt becoming an Islamic state. To protect its position in Egyptian society, it might resort to armed force. This will make the FJP’s job doubly difficult because the party has promised free market reforms that would put a crimp in the military’s control of the economy. Rather than give the military an excuse to kick it out, it is more likely that the FJP will follow the example of the Turkish Justice and Development party that has gradually established control over the courts, the parliament, and finally the military since its victory in 2002.
A new day dawns in Egypt. Elections are a fine and wonderful thing, but elevating the Muslim Brotherhood to power, whose hatred of Israel and whose real agenda is undemocratic and injurious to personal freedom, will undoubtedly usher in a dark age after the dawn, which the Egyptian people will come to bitterly regret.
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