October 20, 2011 / 6:33 AM / 6 years ago

Egypt Islamists split before vote, some call for unity

(Reuters) - Islamic thinkers on Wednesday called on Islamist political forces contesting Egypt’s parliamentary vote to unite and avoid conflict, after many parties broke off an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, fragmenting the vote of the Islamist bloc.

The newly-formed Islamist parties, known as Salafists and who follow strict teachings of Islam, pulled out of the Democratic Alliance to protest their small showing on the alliance’s electoral list, saying Brotherhood candidates monopolised it.

“It is important that the Islamic voting bloc remains united in all constituencies across the state which can only be achieved through having one Islamic electoral campaign in all constituencies,” 19 Islamic thinkers said in a joint statement.

The split could weaken the Islamists’ chance of winning a majority in the first election since President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising in February. The Alliance, which initially had 34 parties across the political spectrum, now only has 10.

A senior member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) played down the split, saying any alliance with less politically-experienced Islamists would be a “burden” on the Brotherhood, which has contested elections for over 30 years.

Essam el-Erian, vice president of the FJP said the Salafist parties were inexperienced and would pose a burden rather than strengthen the Brotherhood in the election race.

“It is better and wise for both to work individually. They are new comers to political life and they will be a burden for any coalition,” Erian told Reuters in an interview on .

The defection would benefit the Brotherhood, which has decades of experience in running for elections, Erian said. “We have more than 30 years experience and we are widespread across the country.”

The largest Salafist party Al-Nour, along with the Asalaa Party, and Al Benaa and Tanmiya Party, belonging to the Islamist group al-Gam‘aa al-Islamiyya are in talks to form another coalition that would compete with the Brotherhood

“The power of Salafists was exaggerated,” Erian said.

The scholars called for forming a committee of wise men from across the Islamic stream to begin a dialogue and avoid competition or conflict between Islamists.

“To avoid any dispute between Islamic streams that will contest the elections, we call for...prioritising public good and avoiding whatever may distort the image of Islamists,” they said in the statement.

Under Mubarak’s rule, the influential Brotherhood was banned from formal politics but ran candidates as independents while Salafists and other Islamist groups stayed out of politics. Both Islamist forces were oppressed by state security forces.

Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party dominated politics for decades and had been widely accused of ballot stuffing, vote buying and intimidation.

In post-revolution Egypt Islamic forces are expected to win a large number of seats in parliament, allowing them to compete against Liberal parties, who are said to lack political clout or grassroots influence to win a majority in the vote.

Many liberal politicians and Egyptians are worried by the rising influence of the Brotherhood since the uprising. The group has sought to quell concerns by saying it wants a pluralist democracy and did not want to impose Islamic law.

Egypt’s ruling military council banned the use of religious slogans, a move analysts said showed the army’s eagerness for a civil state.

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