Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Egyptian Islamist Groups Clash as Elections Approach

After the relatively successful revolution in Egypt overthrew the corrupt dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2012, Mohamed Morsi was elected the new President of Egypt with the hope that his regime would better represent the Egyptian people and improve their economic, social and political circumstances.  Morsi is a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood and represents its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). FJP has been involved in an alliance with many Salafist groups, especially the al-Nour party, against the liberal, secularist National Salvation Front or NSF.  At the end of January 2013 a rift between al-Nour and the FJP/Muslim Brotherhood began to form because al-Nour “announced a new initiative for ‘national reconciliation’ that brought its position closer to the NSF”.  The initiative advocated for changing Morsi’s cabinet, amending the constitution and selecting a new public prosecutor; which was widely supported by the NSF and contradicted the FJP.  In turn, al-Nour has accused Morsi and his Islamist government all “failing to lead the country, appointing a weak government, and power-grabbing”.
This division between Islamist parties has become increasingly more important since the Supreme Constitutional Court postponed parliamentary elections that were supposed to occur from April 22nd to June 24th this year in order to “review the election law”.  As Cederman describes the concept of religion as ethnicity and the struggles that exist which create revolution, this can be applied to the conflict that exists between these various Islamist sects. This continuing division among the Islamist groups is also important because it seems that a battle among opposing political parties may contribute to another revolution.  The situation in Egypt has no doubt taken a complex turn for the worse and it will be interesting to see how this struggle among previously allied Islamist groups will affect the future of Egypt.  Egyptian Islamist writer Ibrahim Nageh dramatically illustrates a future possibility with his statement, “Politics is about conflict and defeating your opponents… once Islamist political forces defeat their liberal and socialist opponents in the National Salvation Front, the real conflict will start”.
In order to alleviate some of the tensions between Islamist parties and the NSF, a policy recommendation could be to enact a fully proportional representative government, instead of the half proportional representation and half first-past-the-post system which existed in 2012 and caused the Court to declare the government unconstitutional. This may possibly lead to a relatively successful parliamentary election, however, it is unclear if the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Nour and the NSF would be able to coincide civilly in a completely new elected government.  What do you think the existing Egyptian government or numerous opposition groups should do to create a stable, effective government and avoid a future revolution?  Is there anything that could be done to diminish the growing division between the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups like al-Nour?

Bayoumi, Alaa, “Egypt’s Islamists spar as elections loom,” Al Jazeera, 11 Mar 2013,

Leyne, Jon. “Egypt Supreme Court Calls For Parliament to be Dissolved,” BBC News. 14 June 2012,


  1. Clashes between Islamist groups in Egypt along with most of MENA - Middle East and Northern Africa, will always exist. The rise of Morsi and his strong influence in the Muslim Brotherhood clearly has only caused more tension between groups. In addition, the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and the al-Nour party were once allies contributes to the increasing divide of these Islamist groups. I agree that there should be a policy recommendation to enact a fully proportional representative government. Doing so will cater to more diversity, help improve the increasing division, and will also attempt to place less power in Morsi along with the Muslim Brotherhood. There are actions that can be taken to weaken the growing division between the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. A change in the way of rule to allow more perspectives and transparency, as well as protest can both diminish this growing division.

  2. I think it will be interesting to see if these groups will be able to come together and form some kind of coalition group within the proposed parliamentary system. In Egypt, I feel it is clear that there is a divide between the people on how much Islam should play a role is governing the nation. If there was to be a fully proportional representative government, this may increase the risk of divide within the state as each of these three groups may be able to take hold of just enough seats to make parliament highly dysfunctional. Regardless of what the state is doing, you can see through the continued protest and uprising this year that the Egyptian people are far from happy with what little progress has transpired since 2011.

  3. I liked that quote you found ("Politics is about conflict and defeating your opponents… once Islamist political forces defeat their liberal and socialist opponents in the National Salvation Front, the real conflict will start") and I think it foreshadows many problems throughout the MENA region. Egypt's government will have to unite the people through a process of reconciliation and if Morsi really has the country's best interest in mind, he should step-down from power.