Egyptian Politics and the role of The Muslim Brotherhood

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.



Moslims' brotherhood

first of all i would like to highlight the fact that I'm not , and have never been a member of any political party in egypt including Moslems brotherhood whom i consider the most powerful and public based party even if government in egypt do not admit it.

i'm in agreement with whatever Mr. Saad has gone to regarding active participation of Moslems Brotherhood in political life . As long as descion makers in egypt shall adopt a new strategy to enhance democracy in egypt shifting from current practice " monocracy if we may say "
I have two points in disagreement to your comments :

- limiting the role of revolution officers to " some military dectaors " that egypt suffered from till now .despite the disadvantages of the revolution , we should be fair enough to consider the advantages and good outcomes of the revolution , you could have highlighted instead the role of Gamal Abdul nasser in limiting the political role of Moslems brotherhood through force " assasination , legislations ...." this could have been more objective and positive approach

- Army's role in egypt can't be skipped , its is very obvious and well known to all that Any ruler for egypt will be a man with military background and/ or Miliatry accepted . Army is the hidden ruling party in egypt , please refer to historic event of sadat's assasination and what happened therafter and how the desicion of nominating Hosny mubarak was emphasized by "High council of armed forces " compromising of Abu ghazala ,Kamal hassan aly , Gamasy , Abou Shnaf , abd rab el naby hafez ... etc His name was emphasized depite the fact that he was deputy president and qualifying by law to be nominated this information was furnished by Sufi abu taleb , head of parliment at that time in his biography

From my point of view and given the current idiology of ruler and public it is not likely , even impossible , that someone could Head the state without being generaly accepted/appointed by ARMY " ARMED FORCES generals, Military intellegance HEADS , GENERAL Intellegance head , Presidential guards head , and national security advisor" any other senarios will lead to complete mess .we will need many many years to change this idiology and limit the role and domination of army on political life and political desicion making

- why do we consider that any governement compromising of muslims brotheehood or any opposing party will be anti- american governement ?

N.B : Sorry for my english , i would rather use arabic language in writing

Some comments

Thanks for commenting.

Here are some comments on the comments:

Regarding the army and being a "guardian of democracy", I cannot accept that as a valid position.

The reasons are many:

First, the army by nature is dicatorial, knows only force, and obedience to authority. Negotiation, consultation, and other aspects necessary for democracy are not in its genetic makeup.

Second, if an entity has the backing of the army, then they are secure in power, and will not listen to the people.

Third, see the example of Turkey: they brought down several governments because they did not like them. Only when the EU said that army power must be limited did the present government get any chance of success, and so far they are successful, because the army stayed away from it.

Fourth, Turkey is not the only example. Think of Chile and Pinochet, or Saddam Hussein, or Qaddafi, ... etc. all bad examples.

I am not saying that the army is bad, but the role of an army is guarding against external threats, and perhaps getting involved in infrastructure projects that require its manpower and expertise. But politics should be a red zone for the army.

I know that reality is different, and that the army is a hidden power, but they need to be put in check, so we do not suffer another 50 years of backwardness. While there is no easy way to minimize their power, it does not help if we keep saying that they should be the "guardians of democracy".

Now about the revolution, of course it had some good points, but I feel that the negatives cannot be dismissed. Think about it: we still do not have real democracy or representation. Not even free elections. We had that better than now 50 years ago. Our economy is suffering because of all the experimentation that went on for decades. Look at countries that were considered below us on the development scale and where they are now. Think India. Think Taiwan. Think Malaysia.

Finally, any party in Egypt can be anti-American. The Americans are not helping by what they are doing all over the region. Remember that being anti-American gains votes too. Secular groups used that to their advantage to gain public support (e.g. Gamal Abdel Nasser).

Khalid Baheyeldin