Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—With Egypt’s presidential elections set to begin on Monday, Salafist Al-Nour Party leader Younes Makhioun announced that his party would be backing popular former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, saying he is the candidate who is most capable of dealing with the challenges facing Egypt.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Makhioun said: “Sisi is the best person to deal with these challenges for a number of reasons, including the fact that state institutions will be more responsive to him and he has a successful track record of management in the armed forces. His previous post as defense minister gives him a clear vision regarding the national security challenges facing Egypt.”
Most analysts expect the former army chief to secure an easy victory over Nasserite rival Hamdeen Sabahy in next week’s presidential elections. Egypt’s election commission announced that Sisi had already secured 94.5 percent of expatriate votes in last week’s international polling.
“One of the greatest dangers facing Egypt is that of division and chaos and the country becoming a failed state. Therefore, the priority for the party is to preserve the Egyptian state and protect it from collapse,” Makhioun said.
The Al-Nour Party finds itself in an increasingly precarious position in Egypt, with the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood accusing the party of betraying its Islamist roots by backing what it continues to describe as a “military coup” against Brotherhood president Mohamed Mursi. Al-Nour Party secretary-general Galal Murra personally appeared alongside Sisi when he announced the transitional political roadmap that formally removed Mohamed Mursi from office on July 3, 2013, demonstrating the Salafist group’s support of this move.
Speaking at the time, Murra said: “To the great people of Egypt, by God we only took this decision and position to stop the bloodshed of our people and to put an end to this situation in Egypt, which has perhaps reached the stage of opening the door to civil war.”
Equally, the post-Mursi authorities continue to eye the Salafist political party with suspicion, with the 2014 constitution explicitly banning political parties “formed on the basis of religion.”
“The Brotherhood tried to use religion as a weapon in a political conflict. What happened on June 30, 2013, was a political conflict. People took to the streets in protest against the Brotherhood’s rule . . . People took to the streets against the Muslim Brotherhood government and its mistakes, not religion or Islam,” Makhioun told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Our stances have given us the respect of the Egyptian people, because they stem from concern for people’s interests, and we know that it is impossible to elect a president who is acceptable to all the Egyptian people,” he said.
The Al-Nour Party chief called on the Muslim Brotherhood to “review its ideology and denounce takfirism and violence,” adding that this has become increasingly prevalent among the group’s youth.
Makhioun also confirmed that the Al-Nour Party will take part in parliamentary elections, set to take place before the end of the year: “The Al-Nour Party will follow the course which secures the best interests of the Egyptian people, and therefore will participate in the parliamentary elections. These elections will largely define the new political system stipulated by the constitution. Therefore, the election battles will be key and decisive.”
“The Al-Nour party will not enter into election alliances with any other party; however, there will be coordination with some parties in some constituencies. The important thing now is implementing the new parliamentary election law,” he said.