Where the Salafis Go From Here: Why the Islamists Will Not Compromise
Throughout the spring, many analysts covering Egypt’s presidential elections argued that Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fatouh, a Muslim Brotherhood leader until last summer, would at least secure a place in any runoff round, if not win it. In the months leading up to the vote, Abou el-Fatouh appeared to have captured a broad coalition of supporters, including several Salafi parties, which, this past January, had won a surprising 25 percent of the seats in Egypt’s new parliament. Yet their expected electoral power never materialized. Meanwhile, Abou el-Fatouh’s popularity faded, and he placed a distant fourth in the first round of voting on May 23 and 24.
Abou el-Fatouh’s downfall disappointed his many supporters, from secular revolutionaries to Christians and former Brotherhood youth. But it represented a particular defeat for the Salafi parties. They compromised their principles to back him, and his loss will likely discourage such pragmatism in the future.
As the Salafi parties now realize, their endorsement of Abou el-Fatouh, however politically practical, alienated their base.
From the beginning, Abou el-Fatouh attracted a diverse array of supporters. After he announced his candidacy in May 2011, the Brotherhood expelled him for violating its policy, at that time, of not fielding a contender. Even so, he retained the sympathy of many youth figures in the organization, who saw him as a champion for much-needed reform. Some even risked expulsion to endorse his campaign. As one of the first Brotherhood leaders to join the Egyptian revolution, Abou el-Fatouh also enjoyed the backing of many secular activists. And some Christians supported him in hopes that he would take a more moderate position than the Brotherhood or the Salafis on the role of religion in the state.