The crackdown on Islamists in Egypt following President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in 2013 signaled the erosion of the unspoken alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s military. A report from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs describes the emerging cooperation between the military and business elites, and how Islamist and secular parties have forged electoral coalitions in an attempt to make a better showing in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The following are excerpts from the report that focus on the struggles of Islamists in Egypt’s current political climate.

Islamist Forces: Quest for Survival

            The ouster of then President Morsi signaled the beginning of a state crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. By the end of September 2013, the organization was banned by court ruling, its main figures arrested, its assets confiscated, and those of its leaders frozen. The organization was also declared a “terrorist” organization by the Egyptian government in December 2013. In August 2014, almost one year after the Brother-hood’s ban, its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, was dissolved by another court ruling.

            Ahead of the protests starting at the end of June 2013, calling for Morsi’s resignation, Brotherhood leaders – along with leaders of other Islamist parties and movements – formed the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, later also known as the Anti-Coup Alliance. Today, this alliance has been weakened following the withdrawal of some of its key members, namely the al-Wasat and al-Watan parties. This has left the Brotherhood – as well as the other members of the Anti-Coup Alliance – in a dire situation. The release of two moderate Muslim Brotherhood figures (Helmi al-Gazzar and Mohamed al-Omda) in September 2014 revived the discussion about a possible reconciliation between the new leadership and Brotherhood members who are willing to undertake an “ideological revision.” It is clear that any reintegration into the political system would be on the regime’s terms and would mean respecting the military’s red lines on national security and Egyptian national identity. At the same time, any reconciliation would deal a fatal blow to the Brotherhood’s organizational unity and its leaders’ credibility in view of the brutal crackdown that has left hundreds of its supporters dead and many more arrested.

            The Salafist Nour party can be considered as the one benefiting from the Brotherhood’s demise. Its leaders supported Morsi’s ouster, adopted the military-led transitional roadmap, and participated in the drafting of the 2014 constitution. Their contribution has been seen as providing “Islamic legitimacy” to the new political order. Al-Nour’s leaders justified their pragmatic stance as an effort to preserve national unity, to keep Islamists represented in the government, and to escape the Brotherhood’s fate. The leaders’ main concern has been to avoid a return to the pre-2011 situation, when they were being persecuted by State Security services. They also worry about article 74 of the 2014 constitution, which states that “no political party can be based on religion.”

            If used against them by the current regime, this article may transform al-Nour into an illegal entity. Such a haunting fear explains why al-Nour endorsed Sisi as a presidential candidate, to the extent of organizing nine public meetings to call their followers to vote for him in the last presidential elections. For the moment, although al-Nour is still a necessary ally for legitimizing Sisi’s regime, the party has lost some of its credentials among its core Islamist supporters for what is seen as betraying its fellow Islamists. Likewise, its organizational weak-ness – following its internal divisions, which led to the splitting off and formation of the Salafist al-Watan party in January 2013 – and its limited financial resources cast doubt on its capacity to replace the Brother-hood as the main Islamist political force or to win the “Islamist vote” in the parliamentary elections, which are officially supposed to take place before the end of 2014. Against this background, al-Nour leaders have started talks with the al-Wasat and al-Watan parties about forming an Islamist electoral coalition, or at least to convince figures of both parties to run for elections on al-Nour’s list.

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