A while back, Dr. Saadeddin Ibrahim, a political and social activist in Egypt, wrote a New York Times article on May 23, 2005, titled: Islam can vote, if we let it. In it, he raises several valid points about democracy in Egypt and other parts of the Arab region eventually bringing Islamic factions to power. In general, he says that this should not be feared, as it is not the disaster that some in the West think it is.
He draws parallels between how Islamist parties in Turkey have proven to be moderate, and the possibility of similar parties in Egypt turning out to be the same.
The article also points to two distinct and opposing wings in the US Administration when it comes to Egypt's politics: one wing says democracy is democracy, and whatever the outcome of it may be, it has to be respected. The other wing wants to ensure that an anti-US government would never get hold of power in Egypt. It seems that the latter wing has the upper hand at the moment.
Big No To The Army!
While I agree with the most of the arguments postulated in the article, I vehemently oppose his proposal appointing the army as the guardian of democracy, as he says, and quotes the experience in Turkey as a success. His fear is that it would be the infamous "one person, one vote, one time" whereby the election of Islamic parties would be the last elections in that country. In Turkey, the army held veto power over government, and has repeatedly caused the downfall of government that has some Islamic tendencies. Only after the EU mandated reforms to cut down the power of the army was a moderate Islamic government possible, and so far it has been a success.
Let Us get the Muslim Brotherhood out of the way
The other point that I would like to make is that even though the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has a lot of support among the populace, most of it is emotionally driven. As long as the Brotherhood is actively excluded from politics, rounded up and imprisoned before any election, they will always have the sympathy from Egyptians, who historically side with those who had injustice committed against them. The more they are exluded, and the more they are persecuted, the more support they get from people.
The Brotherhood and any other peaceful Islamic party would not dare to commit political suicide and hold onto power forever, provided that they come to power by the ballot box. If they come via a coupe d'etat, they will become entrenched, just as the military dicatators became entrenched after 1952, and Egypt suffers for more than half a century because of that.
The Brotherhood does not have seasoned autocrats, administrators or politicians who can run a country, and given that anyone who comes to power after Mubarak will have insurmountable challenges, whether it is the economy, the infrastructure, jobs, corruption, and more, they will eventually fail.
That failure is good for political life in future Egypt: it will eliminate the seductive allure and mystique of the Muslim Brotherhood, which will remain as long as they are excluded. Once that goes away, other parties will come to power, and the wheel of change will go forward, and gradual reform will happen.
But first, the absolute grip on power by the Free Officers who came to power in 1952 has to be loosened, and Mubarak has to go away ... Until that happens, we can only speculate on what is going to happen or not happen.