Has the Muslim Brotherhood Learned Its Lesson?

Even though the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Morsi won the first round of elections in Egypt, Wahid Abdel Majid argues that the group tried to monopolize power and thus alienated voters. That attitude lost them a significant number of voters who previously supported them during the parliamentary elections. 

al-monitor An old newspaper article, in which the Muslim Brotherhood said they were not interested in the presidency.  Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

Topics covered

freedom and justice party, hamdeed sabahi, presidential elections, muslim brotherhood, shafiq, muslim, morsi

Jun 3, 2012

The leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood can still correct the mistakes they have committed over the past five months. However, the only way to do such a thing is by launching an initiative for genuine national partnership. The Brotherhood must do this to avoid losing more of its supporters, like what happened during the first round of the presidential elections. During this round, the party lost more than half of the votes that it had won only five months ago. This is considered a great loss that cannot be overcome, even with Mohammad Morsi coming in first place by a very slight difference over his opponent. Ahmed Shafiq was in second place as both enter the run-off of the presidential election.

Morsi garnered 5. 467 million votes, including the votes of more than a million Salafists. The Salafists were against the Brotherhood during the parliamentary elections. This cannot even be compared to the Brotherhood's success during the parliamentary elections, where the lists of the Freedom and Justice Party had over 11 million votes.

This decline is not very surprising. It started right after the parliamentary elections when the Brotherhood abandoned the consensus approach that it had adopted following the January 25 revolution, when the Brotherhood started to assume that it could leave everyone behind. At that time, a lot of people viewed them as a movement that sought to monopolize power, which is a very heavy burden that no party can carry on its own. Thus the group put itself in a position where it was held accountable for the deterioration of the situation in Egypt and the worsening problems of the people, although it only had taken control of parliament. After it abandoned its allies and stopped listening to others, it has become hard for them to repel the mounting attacks that are endorsed by the group’s mistakes in the management of the Constituent Assembly. The Brotherhood also suffers attacks because of its abandonment of its previous commitment to not take part in the presidential election.

The Brotherhood’s core dilemma lies in its lack of awareness that Egypt is in desperate need for a leadership that can unite the national forces, a leadership based on partnership and the distribution of responsibility. Egypt does not need a leadership that is based on an authority that seeks to monopolize power and thus carry the responsibility all by itself. Complete power and responsibility is already a very heavy load that would burden any one party.

Although the Brotherhood and its [Justice and Freedom] party were never given the responsibility of the executive authority, their approach has given the impression that they are responsible for not resolving the problems of the people. Their way of dealing with other forces raised concerns from a broad sector of the public, which now believe that they are trying to monopolize power.

This reputation had a negative impact for many who supported them in the parliamentary elections, as they did not vote for Morsi in the first round of the presidential elections. The impact was very clear as the Brotherhood suffered a significant loss of votes in many of its Delta region strongholds. In the governorates of Al-Sharqiya, Gharbia, Dakahlia and Qalyubia, which had previously been Brotherhood areas, Shafiq topped Morsi by a large distance.

In Al-Sharqiya, Shafiq’s 627,000 votes was almost 100,000 more than Morsi, who only garnered 537,000. In Qalyubia, Shafiq collected 395,000 votes whereas Morsi only had 302,000. The difference was much bigger in other governorates and carries a lot of dangerous implications regarding the political performance of the Brotherhood. In Gharbia, for instance, the difference was 176,000 votes: 421,000 for Shafiq and 245,000 for Morsi. In Monufia, the difference was roughly 383,000 votes: 586,000 people voted for Shafiq while only 203,000 voted for Morsi.

These are the exact same governorates in which the Brotherhood had gained the majority of votes during the parliamentary elections. In Al-Sharqia the group had won 18 seats out of 30, or 60 percent of the total seats. This percentage dropped to about 27 percent during the presidential election.

In Alexandria, which is considered one of the main strongholds of the Brotherhood, Hamdeen Sabahi acquired more than double the votes than Morsi. Sabahi had 602,000 compared to Morsi’s 291,000, despite the fact that the Brotherhood had won half the seats in Alexandria during the parliamentary elections. Back then, they had won 12 seats out of 24 amid a fierce competition with the Salafists, who also have strong presence in this governorate. What happened is known as “collective punishment.” This made the Brotherhood lose more than 6 million votes in five months, or more than 1 million votes lost for every month.

If the Brotherhood did not maintain its electoral balance in the governorates of southern Egypt, where change takes long periods of time, its candidate would not have won the majority of the votes in the first round and Shafiq would not be behind him by a slight difference.

This is a very good lesson that should be taken into account because the methods used to deal with it will affect the course of history. That is why it is better for the Brotherhood to learn the lesson [of not trying to monopolize power and alienate voters] as soon as possible, since it will determine not just the outcome of the run-off election, but also the future of Egypt for years to come.

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