News analysis: Turkish ruling party's victory in elections inspires Egyptians

08:16, June 17, 2011      

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by Marwa Yahia

The victory of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the recent parliamentary elections impressed Egyptians and raised debates about repeating the "Turkish model" in Egypt.

The AKP, a party with Islamic background headed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won about 50 percent of the votes in Sunday's elections, enabling itself to run for a third consecutive term.

"The Turkish model in turning to democracy is a serious and useful experience which Egypt can benefit from in the current stage," Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf said Wednesday during a phone call with Erdogan.

Sharaf expressed Egypt's keenness to support and develop relations with Turkey and exchange experiences in all the developmental fields.

A number of parties with Islamic background emerged in Egypt after the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian Parties Affairs Committee (PAC) has recently approved the establishment of several such parties, including the Freedom and Justice Party and the al-Nour Party originated from the Muslim Brotherhood, and the EL-Wasat representing the ultra-conservative salafists.

During the rule of Mubarak, the Egyptian government imposed bitter suppression on Islamic groups, and the constitution banned the formation of any parties based on religious background.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which remained outlawed in the past five decades, is regarded as the country's largest Islamic group. Through the newly-founded Freedom and Justice Party, the brotherhood expects to gain more public support in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Asserting itself as a civil party based on religion, the Freedom and Justice Party has announced to contest up to half of the parliamentary seats in the elections scheduled in September, which is considered as the first real test for the brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood praised the victory of the AKP in the Turkish elections. "People's trust in the Turkish party asserted success of the concept of Islamic project, which has the capability to regain the appropriate position among the people," leader of the brotherhood Mohammed Badie said in a congratulation message to Erdogan.

Founded in 2001 by former members of several parties, including the banned Islamist Virtue Party, the AKP came to power in 2002, when Turkey was still reeling from two economic crises that had pushed the country to the verge of economic collapse.

Under the AKP rule, Turkey has become the world's 16th largest economy and rebounded from the global recession last year with an 8.9-percent growth.

According to Gamal Zahran, professor of political science in Egypt's Port Said University, repeating the AKP's success in Egypt can be applicable theoretically, and the reality can push it to be effective.

"The political environment changed after Mubarak's stepping down, and several religious-rooted parties were established either affiliated to the brotherhood or the salafists movement and others, " he said in an interview with Xinhua.

He added that the Turkish political structure is a democratic model in which people are the source of sovereignty and it can be applicable in Egypt.

However, liberal parties and secular-minded youth activists are worried about the rise of Islamists in the country. They fear that these parties can occupy the majority in the next parliament and impose Islamic ruling in Egypt.

"Democracy is the basic principle, and we should separate religion from politics and make it a neutral element in the political process," Zahran stressed.

In response to raised fears about the Muslim Brotherhood to rule the country, Zahran said Egyptians won't accept those who relinquish democracy, which was gained after hundreds of people sacrificed their lives in the anti-government protests.

"People will raise more uprisings against anyone who want to repeat the model of the National Democratic Party, the former ruling party, and power monopoly has gone with no return," Zahran said.

He estimated that about 20 percent to 30 percent of Egyptians may support the brotherhood, but he stressed that "liberty alone will determine the real size of them in the Egyptian society through elections."

If the brotherhood can make progress as what happened in the AKP of Turkey, they will reach the goal of ruling the country, Zahran said.

On the contrary, Gehad Oudah, professor of political science in Helwan University, said Egypt and Turkey are not historically comparable.

The Turkish model is based on secularism as Erdogan himself declared, he said, adding that the AKP emerged from Sufism, a sufi- inspired movement that is concerned with offering an alternative conception of national identity within the framework of secular state.

While the Muslim Brotherhood is concerned with applying the Islamic jurisdiction in each field, even politics, carrying the slogan of "Islam is the solution."

"The military or even the civil structure in Egypt is different from Turkey, "Oudah said, "No one can deny that the Turkish model is a great one, but there still is no similarity when compared to Egypt."

Source: Xinhua
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