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Islamists win two-thirds of Egyptian vote

Let’s face it – this is a demoralizing defeat

The final results of the Egyptian parliamentary elections are in, and they’re exactly what we liberals didn’t want to believe could happen, and what most conservatives predicted. The Muslim Brotherhood won 38%, the even more radical Islamist Nour party won 29%, and liberal parties finished third and fourth. As for the team the whole world was rooting for, Reuters reports:

“The Revolution Continues coalition, dominated by youth groups at the forefront of the protests that toppled Mubarak, attracted less than a million votes and took just seven of the 498 seats up for grabs in the lower house.”

I don’t regret siding with the protesters against Mubarak one bit; knowing what I knew then, I didn’t see that a democrat had any choice. But if I’d known then what I know today? I would have supported Mubarak. I know the road to democracy and reform was never going to be easy in Egypt or any other Arab country, but let’s face it – this is terrible. Before we were worried about the Muslim Brotherhood; now we’re rooting for them against Nour and hoping they’ll take the liberal parties into the coalition to soften the blow. 

There’s no sense denying it – this is a demoralizing defeat for one of the most inspiring movements anyone’s ever seen. It takes the Middle East a giant leap backward.

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    1. Carl

      Larry, I’m having trouble making these sentences work together:
      “I don’t regret siding with the protesters against Mubarak one bit… I didn’t see that a democrat had any choice. But if I’d known then what I know today? I would have supported Mubarak.”
      Is it the first one or the second one?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Adam

      I think this is an awful position to have. Backing Mubarek? You would rather a dictator than a democratically elected government, for no other reason than their religious conservatism. I won’t claim that I am not disappointed with this turn of events, but I’m not naive enough to wish the continued survival of a dictator over the democratic wills of a country’s people. French democracy as we know it was not created in a year. American democracy was not created in a year. So save your eschatological protestations for when something bad happens as a result, rather than wishing for a continuation of a brutal dictatorship. The Nour party hasn’t had any time to mess anything up…yet.

      I wouldn’t wish Mubarek on Israel, even if recent developments have shown that Israeli democracy is just as vulnerable to national-religious zealotry as any other.

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    3. Knowing what I knew then, I was right to support the protesters. But if I’d known then what I know now (the election results), I would have supported Mubarak.

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    4. Piotr Berman

      I know little about Nour, but Muslim Brotherhood seems to detest Salafists. The real danger for Egypt is the perpetuation of military dictatorship.

      My observation is that the dictatorship has no progressive features whatsoever, including the issues like protection of minorities and freedom to express views on religion. Copts were killed and writers prosecuted for blasphemy already. If the dictatorship will end, Egypt will have a coalition government of MB and some secular parties with urgent mandate to make some progress on economy and thus dent the support for Salafist Nour. Expecting a different outcome (apart from the survival of dictatorship) was never realistic.

      One must also remember that the shares of votes in new democracies tend to change drastically from one election cycle to another.

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    5. Carl

      I’m just making the point that democracy is just a system, not a political framework. It doesn’t guarantee a good result, but is the only reliable way of changing a government without having to kill people.
      For me the cut-off point is when people vote for a government that says it’ll abolish democracy. The Muslim Brotherhood might charitably be called a ‘retro’ government – and that’d be generous – but they got voted in so the world has to put up with them. If you’d now support Mubarak, would you support his son, and the next son?
      That said, I do appreciate that I live roughly miles and miles away from Egypt, and you live roughly not many miles from it So see where your worries come from. Also I’ve just remembered that the army’s still in charge in Egypt, so we’re probably all getting worked up about nothing.

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    6. David W

      I appreciate Derfner’s courage to stick out of the crowd and be honest.

      Let’s be frank about it, there are some people in the left who will support anything in the Arab world that will undermine Israel.

      But two wrongs does not make something right. I want a 2SS, and I want Israel to be strong AND democratic, and that means that it’s neighbours will be moderate and progressive, or at least to the extent that the Middle Eastern realities lend themselves(i.e. very little).

      The Islamists are a total disaster, for gays, women, minorities(especially religious minorites like Christians) but also for the wider region.

      So it’s a situation of two bad options, and Derfer would choose Mubarak.

      So would I, but with a qualifier.
      If I had any power at all within a government, I would push for strong help to the liberal elements of his country as a condition for helping him.

      Now, of course, if I cannot put myself in that hypothetical, it’s harder, because I think that the revolution would’ve come anyway and if the West were actively stopping it, the fury against Israel and the West would be even greater.

      Nontheless, the Islamist wave across the Middle East is a huge setback, and the conservatives were right(even if I confess to have never bought into the hype in the first place, I was very cautious about the revolutions, knowing my Middle East history well).

      This will empower the hardliners in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora at exactly the wrong time, making the 2SS even harder to achieve, giving plenty of cover for demonization and excuses. And there is legitimate concern with the Islamists, but still.

      I keep telling people who are also on the left, that some of them are too blinded by Israel. Yes, for some Jewish leftists thers is an emotional connection but that’s not enough.

      I feel at times as if the entire region is slowly warping into a dark cloud.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Danny

      Larry, forgive me for saying so, but this is one of the dumbest posts I’ve seen on this site in a long time. Knowing what you know now? What exactly do you know now? Do you know a priori what the Muslim Brotherhood’s policies will be?
      Will they start a war with Israel? Unlikely. Will they put a stop to Mubarak’s scandalous complicity with Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza? Most probably. What, prey tell, is WRONG with that??
      I expect Egypt will be joining a coalition with Turkey in order to place irresistible pressure on Israel to cease and desist from its occupation and siege of the Palestinians. If that happens, I say 3 cheers to the Muslim Brotherhood!

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    8. Well, well. Anti-democratic sentiment pours out. Perhaps Derfner also approves of the Israeli (and USA) treatment of Hamas and the persons elected as part of the PA’s legislature who were members of Hamas.
      Maybe he also approves of the proposal recently published in an Atlanta newspaper for the MOSSAD to assassinate President Obama if he doesn’t toe Israel’s government’s line w.r.t. war with Iran.
      Perhaps his view is that all government everywhere in the world should be decided by himself, and let democracy go hang.
      When people say that “democracy and Jewish” cannot coexist, perhaps (as well as meaning within the governance of Israel) they mean that Israel and Israelis like Derfner would wish to deny democracy everywhere else in the world, just because they imagine (and often in advance!) that they will not like the results of that democracy.

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    9. DTA

      Larry: “…I don’t regret siding with the protesters against Mubarak one bit; knowing what I knew then, I didn’t see that a democrat had any choice. But if I’d known then what I know today? I would have supported Mubarak.” Do you still regard yourself “ultra-liberal”? At least in democracies there is this concept of accountability, unlike dictatorships.

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    10. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt today is not what you think it is. They do not look up to al-Qaida nor Taliban nor Iran, but are actually using the vocabulary of civil rights, justice for all, diversity and an inclusive society. That, at least is the opinion of Wadah Khanfar is CEO of Integral Media Strategies and the former director general of the Al Jazeera Network. Worth listening too… http://bit.ly/ymf3Wa

      Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Witty

      Definitely not what was promised by the left, by the dissent movement.

      I doubt we’ll see much else about it on 972, Mondoweiss, elsewhere.

      But, your post probably will get play as an example of a disloyal dissenter.

      Its possible that the Muslim Brotherhood will apply a pragmatic approach, more than an imposing one.

      But, they will never accept Israel as Israel, and the extent of their treatying will be temporary.

      This is what happens when the US and Europe decline in world influence.

      Conformity is an easier political norm.

      That the Islamicist and the orthodox Jewish norms are imposing more and more onto secular separation of church and state, is not a good sign for anyone.

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    12. Aaron

      This post was a lot less self-critical than it appears. Things turned out as the skeptics (“conservatives”?) predicted, knowing at the time exactly what Larry Derfner knew at the time. The non-skeptics (“liberals”?) were wrong. But it wasn’t just some isolated case where a crystal ball didn’t happen to work. You don’t just say, “Oops, well, that’s how it is sometimes with crystal balls sometimes.” Apparently the skeptics were right because they analyzed the situation correctly. The gullibles should reconsider their analysis, see why it was wrong AT THE TIME (if in fact it was), and if necessary, correct their analysis for next time.

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    13. Mesho

      Larry you need to chill. This post reeks of Orientalism and forcing the paradigm of stasis and stagnation on the entire Middle East. The Muslim Brotherhood has moderated its stances in recent years, and the work of comparative political theorists shows that ‘radical’ groups moderate their positions once elected into power. This is what Egypt chose, it is NOT within your power to tell them what to do. Otherwise, you do not advocate democracy but rather a ‘democracy of exceptions.’

      Seriously, I am so outraged by this “liberal” reaction to the MB win. It was EXPECTED! What are you gonna do now, break off all ties with Egypt?

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    14. sh

      It is maybe naive to suppose that a people that has suffered under colonial rule, dictatorship and has never yet been offered universal suffrage will bring in a liberal government when allowed for the first time to choose what it actually wants. I once saw a cartoon without words from South America. It showed a tramp in the street, hand outstretched. A man with a big belly stops, bends down and points with the other to a nearby gourmet restaurant. In the third image the tramp is seated, ragged, tousled and alone, at a nicely laid table, wine glasses and all. A cordon-bleu type waiter is handing him a large menu and in the background the man who invited him in sits at another table and watches from a distance with a benevolent smile on his face. The fourth image is of the waiter returning with a large tray on which are twenty wrapped rolls imprinted with the word boccadillo.
      Egypt is a vast country, most of which is inhabited by people who eke out a living and from bitter experience rely on God rather than the government to permit them to be able to feed their children and grant them the bare necessities that we consider rights. It will take more than one election to bring all of them the right to an education that permits them to taste some of the choices open to them. What happened in Egypt happened in Tunisia and what happened in Tunisia happened in Gaza. Instead of railing against it, be glad for them that the door has opened a crack and hope future free and fair elections will become enough of a norm to open it further.
      Look what’s happened to supposedly westernized Jews here in Israel with the freedom to choose what they really want. We need to reset not the image we have of the citizens of neighboring countries, but the false image we have of ourselves.

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    15. Palestinian

      define Islamists

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    16. Islamists are Muslims who think “Islam is the answer” – a political system based on Islam. BTW, the Orthodox Jewish religious parties in Israel are the local counterparts of Islamists. I don’t care much for them, either, and if I had to choose between a military dictatorship or an Orthodox Jewish dictatorship in Israel, I’d choose the former.

      Reply to Comment
    17. JG

      “I would have supported Mubarak.”

      So you wish to pulled some more sniper triggers at the rooftops aroung Midan Tahrir, Larry?

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    18. Tom

      Exactly, JG – I think Larry needs to thing through what “support Mubarak” meant in practical terms on February 10, 2011 before running his mouth like this. You’d have supported him killing maybe a couple of thousand in emptying Tahrir and scaring everyone off the street? You’d support him gradually disappearing the 1000s of organizers in the years after he put down the revolt?

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    19. Larry, an ethno-nationalist from New York, openly supports keeping Israel demographically Jewish at the expense of basic Palestinian rights and then wants to give Egyptians a little lecture on what their democracy should look like. Give me a break. Ez is nit dayn gesheft, habibi.

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    20. Very good point, JG and Tom – no, I wouldn’t have sujpported Mubarak’s killers against the protesters. In fact, in the first couple of days of the protests, I was caught between my instinctive support for them and my fear of the Muslim Brotherhood waiting in the wings (I hadn’t heard of Nour yet), and what decided it for me was that I couldn’t take sides with a dictator’s thugs against people risking their lives for democracy. Which, as I said, I don’t regret for a second. When I say that if I’d known the outcome of the election I would have supported Mubarak, I don’t mean it literally, it really has no literal meaning because I obviously couldn’t have known then how the election would turn out. But let’s say that instead of believing, as I did, that the Islamists would NOT become the dominant power in Egypt, I’d believed that they would. If that’s what I’d believed, I could not have cheered the protesters’ fight like I did. I would have seen them instead as heroic people who ultimately, inadvertently were helping some real dangerous forces gain power – forces potentially even worse for them than Mubarak, and obviously much worse than Mubarak for me and my country, which is an major concern of mine. This is a really tough question, because the battle came down to whether Mubarak’s goons could drive the protesters out of Tahrir Square, or whether they could hold it. And finally, I could not have sided with those trying to drive them from the square, and I would have sided with the protesters – even if I’d believed it would lead to an Islamist takeover. I would have supported the protesters IN THE HOPE THAT I WOULD BE PROVEN WRONG, while at the same time warning of the power of the Islamists. So, fellas, I guess you’re right. Good work.

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    21. Palestinian

      So if I believe that Islam is the answer ,as a political system then I’m an Islamist ? do you know how many people believe Islam is the answer ,even if they dont agree with all the Islamic laws .Then who is a Muslim ?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Henry Lowi

      So, I guess that Larry Derfner, knowing what he knows now, will support the Egyptian military dictatorship (Mubarak regime without Mubarak) when it exercises repression against those it terms “Islamists”, all in the name of being “liberal”. Larry exposes his value system while writing about topics that he does not know much about. The troubling fact, for “liberals” like Larry, is that the Arab revolution is on the march, it is combatting obstacles like Gaddafi, the TNC, Mubarak, SCAF, MB, the Assad regime, and the Zionist regime of Israel, and has set its goals as freedom for the people. Along the way there will be partial victories and setbacks, but democracy will win in the Arab East and North Africa, Palestine will be free, and “liberals” will have nothing to contribute to any of that.

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    23. DTA

      @SH: Your analogy is so beautiful.

      @Larry: I read your comparison to a military dictatorship vs. a religious dictatorship. In Turkey, in 2002 and a few years afterwards, there was exactly this kind of a vocal concern when Erdogan’s party (AKP) got to the government right after a very big economic crisis early that year. At that time the so-called secular and “left” parties got very worried about this. But, fortunately, what happened was their time in government made that ruling party to become much more moderate over the time, and I believe this is because once they were in the government they understood they had to deal with running an already strained economy, relationships with the EU, be pragmatic and etc. Now the same ruling party has a near 50% support base, but I really suspect if the religious aspect is more than 15-20%. Also it was very interesting to note that Erdogan advocated secularism during his visit to Egypt last summer.

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    24. David


      Can I just say – I’m a liberal and a very strong supporter of Israel, and think that a big chunk of the political positions taken by +972 are just silly.

      I’m also dismayed (but unsurprised) by the outcome of the Egyptian elections.

      HOWEVER …

      ” I would have supported Mubarak. I know the road to democracy and reform was never going to be easy in Egypt or any other Arab country, but let’s face it – this is terrible. ”

      Yes, of course it is terrible.

      But there is no alternative to democracy. You can’t expect a population to be subject to a dictatorship – not only is that an outrageous position, it is also untenable.

      Egypt may be headed for disaster – or it may pull back from the brink. Either way, the essence of democracy is that these choices (and their consequences) are a matter for the people.

      There’s no alternative to democracy. There never was.

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    25. Steve

      LARRY DERFNER appears to support people who want peace, and peace with Israel.

      He doesn’t like dictators, or radicals, or any other lunatics. He appears to just support people who want peace.

      The only people this offends are people who just want to bash Israel.

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    26. Steve

      And furthermore, the far bigger issue is not “who Israel likes.” The far bigger issue is that Egypt and other Arab countries are throwing dictators out, and using “free elections” to elect people who are JUST AS BAD AS THE DICTATORS.

      To somehow bash Israel over this reality is absurd.

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    27. Susannah

      Wow – I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu reading these comments.

      They have an uncanny resemblance to the comments in the Jerusalem Post – filled with pure invective, and heavily laced with personal attacks on the writer.

      Not to mention abysmal ignorance.

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    28. Mark Kerpin

      Henry Lowi: “the Arab revolution is on the march … and has set its goals as freedom for the people.”

      Unless you happen to be gay, a woman, a Christian, or any other minority. Mr. Lowi is the perfect example of the pseudo-intellectual leftist European who is incapable of dealing with any reality outside the EU.

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    29. John Yorke

      Well, the count is in, the deed is done and there it is.
      It may not be the ideal result from a liberal point of view and what happens next and thereafter can have serious consequences for the future. Nevertheless, the situation is as it is and how it progresses is still a matter for human beings to decide. Or not, if such is their inclination.
      The destiny of Man can be shaped both by his actions or, as on so many occasions, by his lack of them. But, as the Arab Spring has demonstrated, it is a difficult process to control once embarked upon, the task being subject to all sorts of rebuffs and changes in direction. The hope must be that any of the wilder oscillations will be short-lived and those that remain may allow for some better vision of the way ahead.

      If Israel’s response to Islamic popular success in Egypt and elsewhere manifests itself in the further retrenchment of its religious and political positions, then only a hardening of battle lines can be expected, a condition that helps the overall situation not one bit. Each side becoming the mirror-image of the other leaves very little room for manoeuvre or advancement towards a favourable outcome for all.

      Or does it? What if the reflection presented to them was one in which they do see themselves with a clarity never before experienced? Would that invoke a desire for radical change, for a refocusing of the entire picture, seeing in it something that could be of far greater significance?
      The liberal viewpoint cannot reveal such detail; it is too self-absorbed, too inward-looking to project the true reality of what’s going on. The conservative one is even worse. It refuses to acknowledge the need for any reappraisal whatsoever.

      The only alternative, therefore, is to throw a ‘wild card’ into the mix, an irrational element that stirs up the moribund nature of this apparently insoluble impasse and, in doing so, highlights options hitherto hidden from sight, never before considered as such.


      And, as is so often seen in the affairs of men, it is sometimes only by the most desperate of measures that extraction from the direst of predicaments can be achieved.

      Reply to Comment
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