Lib­er­als left for dust as Egypt goes Is­lamist

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

ONE CAN­NOT but mar­vel at the deft po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring of Egypt’s Is­lamists over the past year, as they dis­tanced them­selves from vi­o­lence on the ground against their lib­eral op­po­nents while or­ches­trat­ing an ac­tion re­play of the 1979 Ira­nian rev­o­lu­tion.

In­deed, as in the af­ter­math of the Ira­nian rev­o­lu­tion, the Egyp­tian Is­lamists’ po­lit­i­cal skills have been matched only by the in­com­pe­tence of the coun­try’s lib­eral elite.

This week, the lat­ter was again on dis­play, when the lib­er­als de­cided to boy­cott a 100-mem­ber com­mit­tee ap­pointed by the new par­lia­ment to draw up a new con­sti­tu­tion.

Their gripe? That, de­spite ear­lier as­sur­ances from the Is­lamists that the com­mit­tee would be in­clu­sive, they ended up ap­point­ing two thirds of the seats to their own rank-and-file. Only half-a-dozen Chris­tians and women were ap­pointed, lead­ing the Cop­tic church to of­fi­cially con­demn the com­mit­tee as il­le­git­i­mate.

But what did the lib­er­als and Copts ex­pect?

Say­ing one thing and do­ing an­other is an in­te­gral part of a politi­cian’s job de­scrip­tion the world over. In fact, the Brother­hood’s treach­ery was as pre­dictable as it was shame­less, mark­ing as it did the cul­mi­na­tion of a se­ries of sim­i­lar be­tray­als.

Ini­tially, they promised to stand for only half of the par­lia­men­tary seats up for grabs, then fielded can­di­dates for all of them.

And af­ter re­peat­edly stat­ing they would not of­fer a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — and even sus­pend­ing one of their own mem­bers for putting his name for­ward — the Brother­hood has just se­lected its deputy chair­man, Khairat Al-shatir, to run for pres­i­dent on the group’s of­fi­cial ticket.

In any event, since the Is­lamists won 77 per cent of the par­lia­men­tary vote, in con­trast to the rev­o­lu­tion­ary par­ties’ pitiful two per cent, the for­mer have ev­ery right to dom­i­nate the com­mit­tee.

By storm­ing out in protest, the lib­er­als come across yet again as spoilt chil­dren hope­lessly out­played in a game of foot­ball in which they end up sob­bing at the op­po­si­tion’s re­fusal to let them shoot at an open goal once in a while. They were so un­pre­pared for Egypt’s com­plex postrevo­lu­tion­ary po­lit­i­cal game, and so piti­fully lack­ing in sup­port, that they may as well have stayed at home — not least be­cause the ref­eree, in the form of the all-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary coun­cil, was al­ways go­ing to do its ut­most to see that they got a good thrash­ing. This week, the Brother­hood was again pub­licly crit­i­cis­ing the gen­er­als for be­tray­ing the goals of the rev­o­lu­tion — this from a po­lit­i­cal group that it­self firmly came out against an up­ris­ing in the rev­o­lu­tion’s early stages.

Of course, it’s all empty rhetoric for public con­sump­tion.

The pact formed be­tween the Is­lamists and gen­er­als when Hosni Mubarak stepped down — po­lit­i­cal free­dom in re­turn for sup­port­ing the sta­tus quo — is as strong as ever.

That Al-shatir will be Egypt’s next pres­i­dent can be lit­tle doubted. The real dan­ger now, with Egypt’s econ­omy in worse shape than it has been for decades, the cru­cial tourist trade still show­ing few signs of re­cov­ery and crime rates at all-time highs, is that the Egyp­tian masses will lose any faith they may have had in the ben­e­fits of Western-style democ­racy.

Al-shatir en­cap­su­lates the Brother­hood’s shrewd am­bi­gu­ity per­fectly, ex­tolling both the virtues of democ­racy and an Is­lamist state.

No one should be sur­prised when, in a final act of be­trayal, hav­ing em­braced the for­mer, he es­tab­lishes the lat­ter. John R Bradley is the au­thor of ‘Af­ter the Arab Spring: How Is­lamists Hi­jacked the Mid­dle East Re­volt’ (Pal­grave Macmil­lan)


Fe­male mem­bers of the Egyp­tian par­lia­ment

Al-shatir, the Brother­hood’s pres­den­tial can­di­date

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