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Middle east

Islamists take the helm of new Egyptian parliament

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-02-10

With the authoritarian Hosni Mubarak out of the way, Egypt has experienced a frenzy of political activity. The once-banned Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the country's leading political party, and many fear a backlash against minorities and women.

The post-Mubarak period has been marked by a frenzy of previously unimaginable political debate and activity, with the emergence of new political parties, multiple elections, and the promise of a new constitution.

In the power vacuum left by Mubarak’s sudden departure, different groups immediately emerged to demand recognition and help lead the political transition.

While a majority of Egyptians believe in the legitimacy of the new parliament that was sworn in last month, the governing body also reflects the growing pains of democracy and the inevitable contradictions in a country of 85 million people.

The party of the Muslim Brotherhood won almost half of all seats in the lower house, followed by the ultra-conservative Salafists. Together, the two Islamist groups represent 70 percent of Egypt’s parliament. In a bitter turn of events for certain reformers, the liberal and left-leaning groups that launched the revolution secured less than 10 percent of seats.

Elections for parliament's upper house, the Shura Council, are underway and are scheduled to wrap up by the end of February. Then the two chambers will choose a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution. The next major step in Egypt’s transition to democracy will involve presidential elections before the end of June.

As the country presses forward with its marathon election schedule, many have expressed concern that Egypt’s new rulers will not guarantee rights for religious minorities and women. Speaking to FRANCE 24 last month, Jean Maher, president of the Paris-based Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organisation said there was a real danger that the new constitution would represent a step backward from the Mubarak era.

Date created : 2012-02-10

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