After staggering defeat, is it lights out for the Nour Party?

“God willing, the Nour Party from the first round!” the Salafi party’s supporters chanted during their parliamentary elections campaign. But their hopes were crushed when the results of this week’s vote started coming in.

Most of the party’s independent candidates lost, while in the West Delta constituency, the Nour Party’s electoral list was vanquished by For the Love of Egypt. Of the party’s 91 individual candidates contesting the first phase of elections, only 24 made it to the runoffs — most in Beheira, with only four candidates succeeding in Alexandria, home to its strongest support base.

The party now faces a difficult choice as its youth members push to withdraw from the second phase of elections. Yasser Borhamy, deputy head of the Salafi Dawah (the party’s mother group), confirmed rumors that the party was debating pulling out in a phone interview broadcast Wednesday on the privately owned Mehwar TV Channel.

After the party kept a unified front during the many elections and referendums of the past four years, this is the first time youth members have been angered by voting results to the point of threatening to quit an electoral race. Some are even calling for a boycott of the runoffs scheduled for October 27-28 and the second round in late November, claiming the process isn’t free and fair.

Many of the younger members were outraged when the High Elections Commission “turned a blind eye” to rampant electoral violations, a source in the party who asked to remain anonymous told Mada Masr. They also felt a fierce media smear campaign put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Shaaban Abdel Aleem, a member of the Nour Party’s presidential council, told Mada Masr the leadership was scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide whether to withdraw, a decision that would be “based on information, not emotions.”

But aside from the outrage, a Salafi Dawah member in Alexandria who also asked not to be named said the group’s young members are simply disillusioned, like most Egyptians who didn’t vote.

“A big percentage doesn’t believe that we need a parliament because the president issues all the laws, and all other matters are taken care of by the army,” he said. “Egyptians don’t have the energy to head to the ballots every time. It’s not a matter of life or death for them.”

Aside from a generally low turnout, Nour candidates also suffered because many Salafi Dawah members did not vote due to a difference of opinion with the party’s political agenda, he added.

Party member Ihab Farid agreed that the lack of endorsement from some Salafi leaders discouraged the party’s popular base from heading to the polls.

Ahmed al-Segeeny, For the Love of Egypt spokesperson in the West Delta and a member of the Wafd Party, denied rumors that his coalition was in cahoots with the state to engineer the Nour Party’s defeat, or that government forces pressured Salafis to withdraw from the race in Upper Egypt.

“After two revolutions, the age of state interference in elections is long gone,” he told Mada Masr.

Segeeny pointed out that For the Love of Egypt won by a wide margin in Alexandria, a city where voters tend to reject religiously oriented parties. Elections for the 2012 Parliament turned out differently because they were based on a proportional list system, he added, while this year’s contest was based on a closed list system.

When the Wafd Party pulled out of elections in the 1980s, Segeeny said popular support declined dramatically. He argued that if the Nour Party were to do the same thing now, it would be a politically immature move.

Ahmed Badrawy