Islamist Groups Expected to Dominate Egypt's Second Parliamentary Elections

Islamic parties, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Justice party, are expected to dominate the second round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections, which began Wednesday, as they did in the first round of voting.

The Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party dominated the first round of parliamentary elections, winning 45 percent of the seats in parliament. The Brotherhood is the country’s largest and most popular political party, and stands neck-to-neck with its more fundamentalist Islamic competitor, the Salafi Al-Nour party, which garnered roughly 25 percent of the first round seats.

“I think the major trend will continue (in the second round) with some minor changes. The [Freedom and Justice Party] will be first, but I think the percentage will be reduced relative to the first round,” Hassan Abou Taleb, political analyst at the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told Reuters

Wednesday’s kick-off marks two out of three election phases, which will end at the beginning of the next year. These parliamentary votes mark the first free elections in six decades, symbolizing a significant change in direction after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

According to the BBC’s John Leyne, the conservative Al-Nour party is expected to gain substantial momentum in the country’s most conservative areas.

Religious minorities, including Coptic Christians, fear that an Islamic party win will thwart the government’s democratic progress, making the sweat, blood and tears poured into the Arab Spring uprisings futile.

Although the more pragmatic Muslim Brotherhood promises to pursue a democratic government which balances powers between the military, parliament, and government, critics continue to have their doubts.

Evidence suggests The Muslim Brotherhood may prove more religiously conservative than promised. At a “Let’s Encourage Tourism” rally Sunday, party candidate Azza Al-Jarf told roaring crowds that tourists will not be permitted to drink when visiting the country’s many historic ruins.

Similarly, the party maintains close ties with the interim Military council, suggesting that the military will maintain a stifling hold on government decisions even after a new parliament and new constitution.

In light of criticism, the Muslim Brotherhood continues to assert its plan for a democratic government.

 Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie told a private television station earlier this month that the political party plans to govern parliament with “all colors of the rainbow” in mind, and that leaders must agree on “one direction, one goal.”