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There are now multiple struggles underway as the first round of elections on November 28 draw near. The secularists and the Islamists both oppose the military council. The secularists and the Islamists oppose each other and within the Islamist camp, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have locked horns.
The Islamists are building support by selling essential goods to the poor at a steep discount. This includes food, clothing and medicine. The Muslim Brotherhood even sponsored a game of soccer. The organizational advantages of the Islamists over the secularists are plain for all to see. It is not just the Muslim Brotherhood that has a well-oiled operation and campaign infrastructure. The Salafist Al-Nour party says it has 100,000 members and 150 offices around the country.
The Salafists were originally part of the Brotherhood-lead Democratic Alliance bloc. The Al-Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah and Al-Islah Salafist parties decided to leave and form their own coalition. The two have since clashed, with the Brotherhood saying that the Salafists’ volcanic rhetoric is hurting the Islamist movement as a whole. It is unclear at this point if the Salafists and the Brotherhood will coordinate their campaigns so that they don’t split the Islamist vote in individual districts.
There is not much time left before the voting begins and the Islamists’ hopes are high. The Al-Nour party predicts that the Islamists will control over one-third of parliament. Middle East expert Dr. Barry Rubin revised his projection in the wake of the Islamist Ennahda Party’s success in the Tunisian elections (winning 41% of the vote). He now believes the Islamists will get nearly half of the seats in parliament, partly because of non-Islamists dividing the vote.
The first round of elections for the lower house of parliament will take place on November 28. Nine provinces will vote in each round and there will be a run-off election in districts where the victor does not win a majority of the vote. The second and third rounds for the lower house will take place on December 14 and January 3, respectively. The three rounds for the upper house will take place on January 29, February 14 and March 4.
The elected interim government will draft the next constitution and decide the role of Sharia. The stakes for Egypt and the region could not be much higher.
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