Sunday, December 9, 2012

Egyptian Politics: between the immature and the unorganized

Egyptian Politics: between the immature and the unorganized

The recent tragedy unfolding in Egypt in the aftermath of the presidential decree is a critical sign of Egyptian politics’ immaturity. An immaturity not only due to the young democracy that is taking shape in Egypt, but also due to the inexperience of the ruling party that has shouldered political responsibility and state management for its first time.

Although not enlisted in the Muslim Brotherhood or in its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, Mr. Morsi showcases all the pathological signs of the Muslim Brotherhood approach to politics and policymaking. The extensive network of the Muslim Brotherhood spans throughout Egypt and the greater Middle East, yet the historical background of the organization doesn’t include in its records periods of time where the brotherhood assumed political office or statesmanship position. Imbued in an activist and underground lifestyle, the Muslim brotherhood drew its power in its ability to mobilize its members and partisans en masse and in short notices, as well as its extensive knowledge of the public opinion’s tendencies and ways to manipulate domestic and foreign events in shaping the street pulse and using it as a leverage to further their agenda and recruitment process.

The issue with underground, and in this case banned groups and congregations, is that ideological battles are their expertise, yet Realpolitik and political practice are not fields of mastery for groups that always strived to assume roles of opposition and state defiance with no intent on engaging in statesmanship and policy making.
The case of the attempt of the Muslim Brotherhood to assassinate the Egyptian president Gamal Abdennasser in 1954 is a typical trait of the organization: Although the assassination of the president would not have an impact on the course of policies of its administration, the Brotherhood envisioned such attempt as a show of force to further confirm its defiance and opposition stance against the government. If the Brotherhood had any sense of political engagement, it could have mobilized its extensive human and financial capital to lobby and influence policy makers as a mean to shape policies they see best serve their agenda or that of the Egyptian people.

The same trait of rebellion continued during the Arab Spring and Egyptian revolution, a revolution that remains a standing ovation for the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to mobilize a vast human capital and hijack mass protests through a subtle and swift influence and engineering of the public opinion and street pulse. Yet, as the regime fell down and the prospects of power became apparent for the Muslim Brotherhood, the newly legitimate organization assumed political office through its political party, the Freedom and Justice party, a step that is being considered a true game changer in the history of the Brotherhood. For 84 years of activity, the Muslim Brotherhood assumed state responsibility, a responsibility that extends beyond the operational capability of the congregation given the lack of political experience and exposure to the intricacies of governance and state management.

Although a gloomy prospect for Egyptian domestic affairs, the Muslim Brotherhood remains the only alternative in a political spectrum hugely divided between unorganized and scattered political actors.

Whether liberals, secularists or moderate Islamists, the plethora of political establishments in Egypt is far from displaying the political plurality that is a sign of a healthy democracy. The realities enclosing the various political parties in Egypt attest of their inefficacy and inability to run a consensual government cohesive enough to stand the challenges of the post-revolutionary Egypt. The opportunities that the revolution offered seemed immeasurable in political terms, thus the exponential rise in political formation, parties and groups was a much-expected trend in the Egyptian arena, a trend that not only determined the impossibility of forming a non-Islamist majority government, but also signed the death testimony of the Egyptian pluralistic system of governance.

Although some of the political establishments, in great parts remnants of the old regime, have the ability to govern and to strongly handle the domestic affairs in Egypt, they remain hugely overwhelmed by the far reaching discipline and organization of the Brotherhood, and continue to be seen under a negative light due to their association with the fallen dictatorship.

The way forward in Egypt is to be determined by the willingness of the Muslim Brotherhood to both accept a political compromise and an ideological paradigm shift. The Muslim brotherhood lacks the experience that statesmanship requires, an experience that can be offered by the contesting political establishments pioneered by the secularists and the liberals. Although see as an ideological threat, the Muslim brotherhood can still accommodate the opposite factions in state organs by offering a mutual governance of Egyptian affairs, a mutual governance that can be exploited by the Muslim brotherhood as a temporary venture to gain the political maturity needed for a powerful governing organization. The Muslim Brotherhood will not be able to assume fully its responsibilities towards the Egyptian street unless it decides to relegate its rebellious ideology and its affinity towards opposition for a more governance driven line of thought. It is of paramount importance to realize the necessity that the times of staunch opposition are over, and the era of political practice is on. If the Brotherhood is to persist in its ideological supremacy and political immaturity, it will lose the hearts and minds of the supporters who propelled it to the pic of power, and it will miss on the golden opportunity of transforming its principles, values and precepts into actual enforced policies through the powerful medium of the state and parliament.

Mohamed Amine Belarbi

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