The Egyptian media, along with many writers and journalists, frequently uses the term “political blackmail.” A weak or distressed party may resort to blackmail, that is, pressuring another using illegal or unethical means, to gain concessions that would normally be out of reach. The Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, Mohammad Morsi, needs the votes of the political forces that did not vote for him in the first round. But the efforts being undertaken by those forces now known as the “Third Movement” or the “Civil Movement” to reach an understanding with Morsi before giving him their votes in the run-off election are being labeled “blackmail.”
Fahmi Howeidi, a prominent writer, went as far as to liken the Civil Movement’s position on Morsi in the run-off to that of the United States and Israel regarding Yasser Arafat at the end of the 1980s. In my opinion, this comparison is not accurate, nor is it appropriate. The situation faced by Morsi in the context of the upcoming run-off is nothing like that of Yasser Arafat at the end of the 1980s. There is also no comparison between the concessions that the Third Movement is trying to wrangle from the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate and what the United States and Israel were trying to get from the PLO Chairman at the end of the 1980s.
I think we all need to wake up our consciences and put the national interest above all partisan or ideological interests. This is the only way to truly understand Egypt’s current political developments. It is also the only way to take up proper and real political positions, away from the games of one-upmanship, defamation and demagoguery, which blind us to genuine attempts at blackmail. In my opinion, the first thing this awakening of conscience requires is for us to recognize that the choice before the Egyptian people — Mohammad Morsi or Ahmad Shafiq as president of Egypt for the next four years — is not in essence a real choice. If Shafiq is elected, it means that the revolution has failed, and that we have accepted the return of the old regime. What’s more, if Morsi is elected, it means recognizing the Muslim Brotherhood as the sole legitimate representative of the revolution, and accepting its dominance over all of the centers of power in Egypt. Because either option entails a serious risk for the nation’s future, especially given that Shafiq’s participation in the elections in the first place is a clear violation of the law and the constitution, the proper thing to do would be for the results to be canceled, and for a run-off to be postponed until a legal framework is established upon which all political forces can agree.
But if the SCAF decides to move forward on that wrong path and hold the run-off as planned, despite all of the inherent risks, the only remaining option would be for the political forces interested in change to work together to prevent Shafiq from reaching the presidency. That solution would make Morsi the candidate of the whole nation, and not only that of the Muslim Brotherhood. It would be helpful if Morsi and the Brotherhood expressed their commitment to the “Pact for the Regime.” We published the text of this document in full last Sunday [June 3] to initiate public debate over its contents, and to accelerate the formation of the Constituent Assembly on the basis of consensus. In my opinion, this was a action that was taken with the interests of the nation in mind, and it does not involve any kind of blackmail. It should be seen as an honest attempt to find a way out of the current national crisis.
In contrast, it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood has been procrastinating, as usual. Perhaps it thinks that the majority of Egyptian patriots will have no choice but to vote for Morsi because their national conscience will not allow them to vote for the former regime’s candidate. That is blackmail. I think that the Muslim Brotherhood is in dire need of removing the mountains of mistrust built up over the months that followed Mubarak’s fall, which have isolated the Brotherhood from the rest. That gap should be bridged now for the benefit of all, and without anybody resorting to political one-upmanship.