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Egyptian election officials count ballots in Cairo on Nov. 29, 2011.

Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images/Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

The Muslim Brotherhood should follow the example of Ennahda in Tunisia – a moderate Islamist movement – and build a broad consensus by forming a coalition with secular, liberal parties, if, as now seems likely, its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, emerges from the first round of the Egyptian parliamentary election as the preponderant party.

It would be most unfortunate if the Brotherhood and the FJP took advantage of their lead – initial returns suggest 40 per cent of the votes and, in the second round, they may obtain an outright majority – to try to prevail in Egypt as the sole governing party, or as the only political interlocutor facing the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is now acting in lieu of a president.

Tunisia was sensible enough to start its life as a democracy by electing a constituent assembly, that is, a body whose work it is to draft a constitution. The new Egyptian parliament ought to consider this as a major part of its role; indeed, it will need to concern itself with proposed constitutional amendments. But a genuine constitution cannot be the product of a single party. Of course, one party can govern alone, but the overall framework should not be set by one party. For example, in Canada, the Fathers of Confederation were not all Conservatives or Liberals; they represented a wide spectrum.

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The Muslim Brotherhood does not want to go back to military dictatorship. But it will undermine its own hopes for enduring power in the emerging post-Nasserite, post-Mubarak, post-dictatorial – regime, if it monopolizes the new parliament, thus delegitimizing the new political order.

Nor should the Brotherhood ally itself only with the harder-line Islamist parties, classified as Salafist. The Egyptian Bloc, composed of three liberal parties, ought to be part of a coalition for the first few years of the nascent democracy.

The Muslim Brotherhood has substantial support in Egyptian society, but the extent of its current success has been achieved partly by default, for lack of other well-established political movements. In the near future, Egypt ought to be governed by a balanced combination of secular and religion-based parties.

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