Decisiveness in Egypt: the Military, El-Baradei, and the al-Nour Party

UPDATE: Military in Egypt reportedly plan to appoint jurist as interim prime minister; el-Baradei will be his deputy.

See “Wende im Machtkampf: Sozialdemokrat al-Din soll Ägyptens Regierung führen; Ein Jurist soll Ägypten aus der Staatskrise führen: Präsident Mansur will den Sozialdemokraten Said Bahaa al-Din zum neuen Ministerpräsidenten berufen, Nobelpreisträger ElBaradei soll sein Stellvertreter werden,” Der Spiegel, 7 Juli 2013 (23:03 Uhr)

The greatest threat in Egypt, at this moment, would be evidence of indecisiveness on the part of General al-Sisi and the Egyptian military in designating a prime minister for the transitional government.

The central question is whether the al-Nour Party will have a veto over the plans and actions of the military in implementing its road-map for putting Egypt on a path that will lead not just to elections, but to true democracy.

See Said Shehata, “Profiles of Egypt’s political parties: Al-Nour Party,” BBC News, November 25, 2011.

The BBC summary of the parties positions, written in November, 2011, includes the following:

Programme and Goals

Applying Islamic Sharia in all aspects of life is the main goal.

They call for people to follow Islam that was practiced during the time of the Prophet Muhamad and his companions, and for Islamic ethics to be the terms of reference of daily life.

“The party aims at reforming people’s lives according to the Koran and Sunnah and a modern state based on Islamic ethics,” a senior party official, Yousry Hamad, told the BBC.

Al-Nour highlights the right to private property and economic competition as long as it does not damage public interests.

It asserts freedoms and rights as possible within the confines of Islamic Sharia.

Electoral Alliances

The party was part of the Democratic Alliance led by the Freedom and Justice Party, but they withdrew to establish a new bloc.

Yousry Hamad says the party wants a modern state based on Islamic ethics Their Islamic views are more conservative than those of the Freedom and Justice Party regarding Islamic Sharia and the relationship with Israel.

They believe in a strict application of Sharia law, such as implementing Islamic punishments known as Huddud. They also found it hard to deal with non-Islamist parties.

They have formed the Islamist Alliance with other parties including al-Gamma’ al-Islamiyya’s Reconstruction and Development Party and the Salafist al-Asala Party.

Women and Copts

The party programme states the right of Copts to have their separate personal status laws and their freedom of religion.

However, Copts are suspicious about Salafist intentions to apply Islamic Sharia.

Al-Nour calls for a Muslim male to be the president of Egypt because it is a Muslim state.

“If 95% of the population are Muslims, no wonder the president should be a Muslim because the president should preserve Islam,” said Yousry Hammad.

The party has no Copt on their list, saying no Christian approached the party. They call for women to focus on the family, which they say is their main duty in society.

In the party’s view women can be teachers and nurses, but not in leadership positions over men. It has 60 women as on the electoral list.

Behind the al-Nour party’s opposition to the naming of Mohamed al-Baradei as prime minister of the transitional government lies an implicit threat—not necessarily from the party, but from the circumstances and beliefs of some of its followers—that if their demands are not met, some of their followers will resort to political violence.

This is the same fear that has immobilized advocates of modernity in the Arab world for decades.

This implicit threat is likely to arise again when the committee is named to advise on amendments to Morsi’s constitution, which was drafted in illegitimacy and hurriedly submitted to a national referendum without even the minimal time necessary to analyze its provisions and organize an effective opposition campaign on a national scale.

For a look at what Islamist political violence looks like, as it occurred yesterday in Cairo, see

Martin Gehlen, “Armee und Polizei verlieren zunehmend die Kontrolle; Scharfschützen auf Dächern und Menschen mit Macheten auf den Straßen: Die Gewalt in Kairo nimmt zu – auch in Wohnvierteln und einem Krankenhaus,” Die Zeit, 7 Juli 2013 (17:25 Uhr)

It is understandable that al-Sisi and the military might hesitate in the face of the opposition of the Salafists represented by the al-Nour Party.

Yet they must reflect on the fact that the ultimate struggle in Egypt is between the forces of modernity including moderate Islamist forces, on the one hand, and the backward-looking Islamist parties which seek to impose a strict form of sharia or Islamic law on the poplulation, on the other. The intention of the latter was clearly manifested when the Muslim Brotherhood and their Freedom and Justice Party shoved through Morsi’s draft constitution after executing a legal coup d’etat on November 22.

While these challenges must be taken fully into account, the military will also have to assess the potential impact of and cost to their effort of appearing hesitant and indecisive, or even worse, appointing an interim prime minister who is incapable of leading the reforms that will be required if their military intervention is to achieve its stated purpose of putting Egypt back on the path to democracy.

In short, they need to appoint a transitional prime minister who is not merely acceptable to different political groups, but who can actually lead.

The Trenchant Observer

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