Conservative rural areas largely support Islamists
GIZA, Egypt – Egyptians poured back into polling stations Wednesday to take part in a second round of voting that is expected to boost Islamist parties’ control over the soon-to-be-formed parliament.
Many of the nine governorates involved in round two included rural and conservative areas where Islamist parties have long enjoyed strong support.
Though no preliminary results were announced late Wednesday, many predicted that Islamist parties would consolidate their gains from the first round. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party led balloting last month with more than 40 percent of the vote, and the harder-line Salafi party Al Nour garnered 21 percent.
The final round of parliamentary voting is scheduled for January with a presidential poll to be held in mid-2012. They are the first elections conducted since the February toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak.
“Salafis are religious people who fear God and are never corrupt,” said Soad Fathi, a 54-year-old street vendor, who was voting in the Giza governorate. “Corruption was the main flaw during Mubarak’s era, and we should put an end to it by voting to those who will fear God while ruling us.”
Islamists’ strong gains have raised concerns about whether they will seek to impose new religious laws, such as limiting beach tourism or restricting the role of women in Egyptian society.
Christian Copts, up to 10 percent of the country’s population, have also expressed unease, particularly as tensions and violence between Copts and Muslims are increasing.
In the Imbaba district of Giza, where a large community of Islamists lives next to thousands of Christian Copts, a church was burned down during a May clash that left 12 people dead and hundreds injured. Another church was set ablaze in March in Helwan, south of Cairo.
Earlier this week, members of both Freedom and Justice and Al Nour separately tried to allay fears by promising that foreign tourism will remain a pillar of the Egyptian economy if Islamists win a parliamentary majority.
However, some leaders vowed to develop what they called “sin-free” tourism, where alcohol won’t be sold to foreigners and female tourists wearing bikinis would be restricted to segregated beaches.