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» 11/10/2011
EGYPT
Shenouda III urges Copts to vote en masse for moderate Muslims if need be
The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church stresses the importance of Christians for the country’s stability and future. Citizenship committees are being organised at the parish level to push Christians to become engaged in politics. Experts warn against a new military regime in Egypt, look favourably to the Tunisian model.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, is urging Copts to vote en masse in the upcoming elections, and not be afraid of Muslim candidates interested in Egyptian Christians. “Your participation in the 28 November elections will maintain a balance between moderation and extremism,” he said yesterday during a sermon.

Because of the coming parliamentary elections, the first since the fall of Mubarak, the Coptic Church is trying to raise awareness of their importance in its various dioceses. In Alexandria, parishes have organised “citizenship committees” with activists and young volunteers tasked with helping Christians become more politically engaged.

Although they are about 8 million who represent 10 per cent of the population, Copts have never been very active in politics because of social and religious discrimination, the exception being Christian business people. Moderate Muslims have often accused Christians of being inward looking and only interested in their own community.

Copts have to be more active in political life, stressed Kameel Seddiq, secretary of the Evangelical confessional council in Alexandria. He said that recent sectarian incidents should motivate Copts even more to vote in elections.

As election day approaches, Egyptians are increasingly concerned about the country’s future. Many are now looking to Tunisia. The North African nation set the ball rolling for the Arab spring and democratic elections. In its recent election, Ennahda, a party close to the Muslim Brotherhood, won.

However, for Bahey el-din Hassan, writing in Al-Masry Al-Youm, the situation in the two countries are quite different and events might not take the same course in Egypt as they did in Tunisia. This is especially the case in relation to the role of the military, the attitude of Islamist parties and the background of the political elite.

In Tunisia, after the fall of Ben Alì, the military kept a low profile. Power was immediately transferred to a civilian government with the army performing its security function.

In Egypt instead, the military took power and are now shaping the country’s fate. For example, after the Maspero massacre on 9 October, the army simply absolved itself of any responsibility and jailed activists and demonstrators, imposing virginity tests on young women arrested in Tahrir Square.

For Hassan, in Tunisia, Islamist parties are more moderate and open to secularism. By contrast, in Egypt they have called for the implementation of Sharia and the subordination of parliament to its precepts, rather than have Islamic law as a simple source of inspiration.

The background of the political elites in the two countries is also a third important factor. In Tunisia, elites have created a High Council for Achieving the Goals of Revolution as a forum in which to discuss how to achieve the goals of the Jasmine Revolution. As such, no single party is allowed to monopolise it.

By contrast, in Egypt most parties created after Mubarak’s fall are disorganised and divided. This has allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to expand so that for many Egyptians it is the only, albeit dangerous force that can stand against the military’s unchallenged power. (S.C.)

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See also
10/24/2011 TUNISIA
Votes counted after Tunisia’s first free election
08/09/2013 EGYPT
Egypt's Pope Tawadros targeted by Islamists
07/26/2013 TUNISIA
"Violence is not part of us; political murder harms the whole country," says Tunisian Priest
11/24/2011 EGYPT
Neither the military nor extremists in the new Egypt, says young Copt
10/26/2011 EGYPT
After the Arab spring, is Egypt heading for a rigid winter?
by André Azzam

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pp. 176
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