31 December 2012
Egypt’s ruling party meets to discuss new law proposals while Al-Nour party head resigns to form new Al-Watan party.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party met on Saturday to discuss new law proposals while the leader of the Salafist Al-Nour party officially resigned to form a new party named Al-Watan. This comes after the Algerian paper El-Khabar reported that the Muslim Brotherhood has a strategy to create divisions amongst the Salafists.
The Egyptian paper Al-Ahram reported that the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party met to discuss new legislation for the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament (Shura Council). The recently approved constitution calls for the Shura Council to control the legislative process until a new People’s Assembly is elected in a couple of months. This comes as Al-Nour broke apart, with its chairman, Abdel Ghafour, resigning to establish Al-Watan.
According to a report on Thursday by El-Khabar, the newly established Salafist Umma Party, headed by the disqualified Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, will run together with the Salafist Call party in the coming parliamentary elections under the name Al-Watan.
The same report said that a top Muslim Brotherhood official, Khairat al-Shater, who was the first Muslim Brotherhood candidate for the presidency before being disqualified, had plans to overthrow the Salafist Front in Alexandria, which is led by Yasser Borhamy and the Al-Nour party. Al-Nour is considered the strongest competitor to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Algerian paper reports that after Al-Nour refused to ally with the Muslim Brotherhood for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Shater decided to move against it.
According to this report, Shater’s actions are what led to the breakup of Al-Nour and the resignation of Ghafour, who then went and formed the Al-Watan party. These actions also allegedly led to the establishment by Ismail of the Umma party. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to split and weaken its Salafist rival.
There were rumors for some time of strife between the two leaders of Al-Nour, Ghafour and Borhamy. Al-Ahram writes that a truce was agreed between the two parties to avoid a split, but in the end the largest Islamist party after the Muslim Brotherhood broke up.
Already, 150 members have publicly quit the party.
Despite internal friction between Islamist parties, they were able to unite behind President Mohamed Morsi against the opposition during the constitutional referendum process.
As an article entitled “Unholy alliance” in the Al-Ahram Weekly noted, “Islamists from across the spectrum argue that their alliance was only a response to the opposition ganging up in what appeared to be a united front with the sole goal of bringing down an elected president and destroying state institutions. Islamist figures viewed the opposition’s escalation against President Morsi as amounting to a ‘declaration of war’ in the words of Tarek Al-Zomor, head of the political bureau of the Construction and Development Party, the political wing of Al- Gamaa Al-Islamiya. ‘The liberal and secular forces were the first to declare war on Islamists by forming this front,’ said Al-Zomor, but, he continued, ‘they did the Islamist forces a great favour when they made us unite under the banner of Islam.’”
The article went on to argue that the positive results from the constitutional referendum have given Islamists an extra boost as they feel even more confidence in pursuing their agenda. The Coalition of Islamist Forces united 19 separate political parties and groups. Shater was also one of the main strategists behind this coalition, which threatened Morsi’s opponents, calling for supporters to take to the streets.
However, underlying tensions were always present between the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. As the Al-Ahram article noted, the Al-Nour party back in August protested against its small representation in Morsi’s cabinet and did not participate in a pro-Morsi rally organized by the Muslim Brotherhood.
*Reuters contributed to this report.