Did the senate elections mark the end of the Nour Party in Egypt?

Only four candidates remained of the Nour Salafist Party in Egypt in the senate’s run-off elections which took place this month, in a repeat of the successive fall of the party since the coup that they supported with all their force against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Official results revealed that the Nour Party did not win any candidate from the first round, neither in the individual nor the list system.

Politicians estimate that the chances of success for any of the four candidates are slight, given their competition from members of the Nation’s Future Party (NFP). NFP is considered the official party established by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which makes it hard for any of them to win, and may lead to the Nour Party being without any seats in the new council. The question remains: Did the senate elections mark the end of the Nour Party in Egypt after they lost the House of Representatives elections in 2015? This loss comes to the only Islamic party in the country, despite its prominent support for the coup of al-Sisi when he was Minister of Defence in 2013, against the first elected civilian president Mohamed Morsi.

Despite the shedding of blood in Rabaa and al-Nahda, Nour Party defended al-Sisi, saying that the latter was “innocent of the blood of the Rabaa sit-in.” The party blamed the MB’s leaders for the bloodshed, claiming that they called for a clash with the state. The party also supported al-Sisi in the presidential elections, and justified its position by saying: “The Field Marshal is the most capable of running the country.”

Al-Sisi saluted the Nour Party. In a televised interview during his candidacy for the presidency in 2014 he said, “The leaders of the Nour Party love the homeland, and are aware of the dangers surrounding the homeland, and it will enrich political life and advance democracy in Egypt.” However, the manifestations of disagreement and clashes between the Nour Party and the regime began later, and the official state media and media professionals loyal to the system began to attack the party.

With the House of Representatives’ elections in 2015, the media launched a sharp attack on the party, describing it as the other side of the Brotherhood, which the authorities consider terrorists. Only 12 candidates succeeded in the run-off, which formed the party bloc in the House of Representatives. At that time, party leaders criticised al-Sisi, accusing him of “exposing party members to a deliberate smear campaign.”

The party’s leader Yasser Burhami addressed al-Sisi, “We will argue with you with God because of the injustice we suffered in the parliamentary elections.” The matter did not stop at this. Yunus Makhyoun, the party’s president, described the elections as “the worst elections in the history of parliament, and a dark black spot on the forehead of this era.” The party’s fears grew when a case against the Nour Party demanding its dissolution was postponed on religious grounds.

Observers see this as a warning siren from the state to the party, to the effect that it can exclude it from the political scene at any moment it wants. In 2018, amid talk about constitutional amendments that would allow al-Sisi to remain in power for an extended period, party leaders announced their rejection of these amendments. However, they quickly reversed their decision and declared their support for these amendments, even though it included many articles they rejected.

With the launch of the 2020 elections, the NFP excluded The Nour Salafist Party from the seats in the For Egypt list, which includes only 11 political parties, and aims to win all positions in the senate. The NFP alliance is relying on the support of the state apparatus. According to observers, the al-Sisi regime has turned the Nour Party’s page and yet the party is continuing to support al-Sisi and his regime and keeping silent about many issues that affect Egyptian national security.

The decision to end the presence of the Nour Party in official political life comes from an official desire to completely close the door to religious currents, even if they are loyal to the regime. The regime wants the Salafi’s appearance to be limited to charities, not politics. Al-Sisi’s supporters considered the loss of the Nour Party a message from the Egyptian people towards the Islamists that the recent elections put an end to religious parties.

According to political science professor Hassan Nafaa, “Parties that do not have clear positions always lose, vanish, and cannot be relied upon.” He added, “Hizb al-Nour is like the one who danced on peace, so it has not become part of the coalition against the current regime, nor is it part of the system in reality,” expecting the “election results to destroy the Nour Party.”