Muslim Brotherhood’s Unilateralism Harmed the Egyptian Revolution

The Egyptian revolution failed because the Muslim Brotherhood excluded the revolutionary forces from power after it won the election.

al-monitor Then-President-elect Mohammed Morsi waves to his supporters while surrounded by his presidential guard in Cairo's Tahrir Square, June 29, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

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salafist, protests, muslim brotherhood, mohammed morsi, military, failure, egyptian salafists, egyptian muslim brotherhood, egypt

Jun 28, 2013

Like others who are interested in Egyptian affairs, I listened to President Mohammed Morsi’s speech hoping that he would be able to contain his opponents and make June 30 be like any other day. The president talked a lot about the previous regime’s corruption and of the people’s suffering caused by the influence that the old regime still has over state institutions.

Morsi gave specific names and told specific stories, as if the Egyptian people don’t know them. He called his speech “uncovering the truths.” But it seems that Morsi forgot that the Egyptian revolution was aimed at eliminating the corruption that he talked about.

Morsi didn’t explain why the revolution failed to achieve its objectives. Why were Mubarak, his aides, and his sons found innocent? What was the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in all that?

Before Morsi was elected, the Muslim Brotherhood met with the revolutionary movements to get their votes. The Brotherhood promised that the revolutionaries would be partners in governance, that the Brotherhood’s mistake of allying with the military against the revolution would not be repeated, and that this time the Brotherhood will be loyal to its allies. “Just give us your votes to defeat Ahmad Shafiq (the former regime’s candidate) and everything will be the way you want it,” they said.

Fearing that the old regime might return, millions of people voted for Morsi. The unity between the Brotherhood and the revolutionary movements was enshrined in the agreement at the Fairmont Hotel. The agreement was announced in Morsi’s presence only days before he announced his candidacy. The agreement’s three most important items were to reshape the Constituent Assembly that would draft a constitution inclusive to all Egyptians, to form a national unity government that would oversee the democratization process, and to appoint a Copt and a woman as vice presidents to showcase the national unity and equality of the post-revolutionary phase.

But what did the Muslim Brotherhood do after winning the presidency? This is what the president did not talk about in his speech.

The Constituent Assembly remained the same. The Muslim Brotherhood, instead of allying with those who gave them their votes, turned their backs and allied with the Salafist forces, which opposed participating in the Jan. 25 revolution.

As a result, the Constitution was not inclusive and it did not consecrate the values ​​of citizenship, freedom and human rights. Rather, the Constitution limited freedoms and human rights, and canceled the equality between men and women. More important, the Brotherhood struck a behind-the-scenes deal with the military establishment whereby the latter would limit its role in politics in exchange for protection from transitional justice and preserving the army’s political and economic interests.

With regard to the government, the Brotherhood favored a government with one color, as if the Brotherhood can alone solve Egypt’s problems, which have accumulated since the Sadat era and are being maintained by foreign pressure to sustain the former regime’s political and economic orientations. Egypt’s problems are bigger than any one party to resolve. So how can a particular group or organization lacking the support of most national forces do it?

Mohamed Aboul Gheit wrote an article about Egypt’s appalling healthcare situation. The problems he listed in that sector alone are enough to convince one to give up on the country, let alone if we add to them the housing problems (more than 2 million people live in cemeteries and more than 10 million live in slums without public facilities).

It is still my opinion that whoever governs Egypt will lose popular support because it is impossible to solve the country’s problems without at least two presidential terms. I also believe that the best solution would be that everyone carries part of the burden. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office has its own secret calculations.

The president ignored appointing a Copt and a woman as vice presidents in favor of a large number of advisers. But even those advisers had no clear powers. Some resigned because their advice what either ignored or overruled in favor of instructions from the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office. In November 2012, Morsi gave himself extra-constitutional powers. Many of his advisers resigned because they were not consulted about the decision.

Repudiating the agreement with the revolutionary forces caused a stir in the Egyptian street. Some of the old regime remnants returned to the political scene, benefitting from the struggle between the revolutionaries and the Brotherhood.

But the opposition is not just made up of the “remnants” as some wish portray it. Most of the opposition are those who started the revolution. Had the president agreed to cooperate with the opposition, he would have been able to easily liquidate the remaining pockets of “remnants” in the state and the judiciary. Had that happened, everyone would have reaped the revolution’s blessings.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s mistakes during their one-year rule are not limited to what was discussed above. The Brotherhood could have ended the sectarian tension between Egyptian Muslims and Christians by passing a uniform law for all houses of worship and by abolishing all discriminatory laws. But they chose not to.

Instead of opting for realistic solutions to the crisis, which involve partnering with the opposition about the constitution and the electoral law, the Muslim Brotherhood chose to deal with the US instead, just as the old regime did. The Brotherhood did so to buy itself some outside legitimacy to compensate for its eroded legitimacy at home. That’s why the Rafah crossing with Gaza is still closed instead being open for goods and people, something that would put an end to the tunnels phenomenon.

The Brotherhood also chose to deal with the Syrian crisis from the perspective of the Muslim Brotherhood organization instead of that of the Egyptian state, which should take balanced policy positions. The Muslim Brotherhood replaced state discourse with Muslim Brotherhood discourse. It adopted sectarian rhetoric. It legitimized — rather than delegitimize — violence on ideological grounds. The result was the terrible scene in Giza.

Morsi’s speech ignored all of the above, as if the quarrel in Egypt was just between the Brotherhood and the remnants. But to those who don’t know, the conflict has not changed since Jan. 25, 2011: It was and still is between young revolutionaries (who believe that the revolution was betrayed and that the goals of freedom, dignity and social justice have not been achieved) and the state’s institutions. Opposing the young revolutionaries was the Mubarak regime at first, then the military, then the Muslim Brotherhood today.

The presidential election and the constitution didn’t change what the conflict was about. In his speech, Morsi said that the “revolutionary legitimacy” has ended and that the basis of today’s rule is the “constitutional legitimacy.” But what he said is true in only one case: when the institutions that were formed after the revolution express the revolution’s aspirations. And that only happens when there is a partnership between the revolutionaries. It doesn’t make sense that the Egyptians be partners in blood in time of revolution and not partners in the post-revolutionary decision-making. The revolutionary legitimacy ends and the constitutional intimacy begins only when the revolutionaries agree on the form of the government and constitution.

The revolution’s most important achievement was passing laws for the peaceful transfer of power. Despite all the criticisms against the Brotherhood in this article, I truly wish that what happens on June 30 doesn’t reach the point where dialogue becomes impossible.

In my opinion, the solution is the following: If millions of people demonstrate, then the best solution is an early presidential election. If the Brotherhood is confident that they have the people’s support then there is no reason for them to refuse. Let President Morsi win a presidential election one more time and he will gain an additional year. If, on the other hand, only tens of thousands demonstrate, then the opposition should withdraw its demand for early elections and let the president rule until the next election.

May God protect Egypt and its good people from all harm.

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