There is concern in Egypt about the repercussions of the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in the parliamentary elections. At the end of the third and round of voting this week, the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to win 100 of 444 seats.
Egyptian Minister of Foreign Trade and Industry Rasheed Mohamed Rasheed told the Arabic press that the Islamic movement’s success in the elections would have no negative effect whatsoever on his country’s economy. He emphasized that Egypt was on the road to economic liberalization and continued reform, with the goal of improving the people’s standard of living. Egypt and the US are expected to renew talks on a free trade agreement.
The great success of the Muslim Brotherhood, however, is expected to affect the progress of economic reform, tourism, and energy agreements between Israel and Egypt, and the qualifying industrial zone (QIZ) agreement. The Islamists oppose economic agreements with Israel, and demand that they be canceled. They also demand high customs duties on alcohol, even though the customs duty is already 600%.
Many Arabic press sources stress that the vote for the Muslim Brotherhood is a protest vote against the ruling party motivated by economic and social distress, not adherence to Islamic values. Egypt’s official unemployment rate is 20%, but the rate is much higher in unofficial data.
40% of Egyptians live below the official poverty level of $2 per person per day.
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on December 5, 2005