A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Salafi Nour Party Split

A much longer post on Egypt will be coming, but I wanted to briefly address the split in the Salafi Al-Nour Party over the past few days, which is likely to affect the outcome of the Parliamentary elections, now due within two months.

The split was provoked by the Party's removal of its Chairman, Emad al-Din Abdel Ghafour, who has no formed his own party, Al-Watan (Homeland).. Other Nour Party figures are also jumping ship, but the Salafist Call Movement (Al-Da‘wa al-Salafiyya), the religious movement behind the Nour Party, insists that Nour is still its sole representative.

While in part the split seems to be a conflict between followers of different sheikhs, the impact of the split on Parliamentary elections is still unclear, though it is probably welcome news for the Muslim Brotherhood. In the first freely elected Parliament (dissolved by the courts last year), Nour ran a strong second to the Muslim Brotherhood; only by forming an alliance was an Islamist majority achieved. That meant Nour was able to pull the Brotherhood farther to the right, and to a more Salafi stance; the Salafis distrust the Brotherhood, not only for its supposed moderation but its secrecy and its loyalty to a single Guide. The Brotherhood has already shown its authoritarian tendencies, and has little desire to form alliances. The Nour split could weaken the Islamist alternatives to the Brotherhood. That could be good news for the Brotherhood, less good for those suspicious of its tendencies.

The rise of the Nour Party surprised most observers, especially given its strong performance. Its demise is by no means certain; Watan could prove to be a splinter party, but so far it seems to be drawing quite a lot of Nour supporters.  Splitting so close to Parliamentary elections probably does not augur well for Nour's performance this time around, but that is more likely to be welcome news to the Brotherhood, rather than their secular opponents.

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