The recent tragedy unfolding in Egypt in the aftermath of the recent presidential decree is a critical sign of Egyptian politics’ immaturity. An immaturity due not only to the youth of the democracy that is taking shape in Egypt, but also to the inexperience of the ruling party, which has shouldered political responsibility and state management for the first time.
Although not enlisted in the Muslim Brotherhood or its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, Mr. Morsi showcases all the pathological signs of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to politics and policy-making. The extensive network of the Muslim Brotherhood spans throughout Egypt and the greater Middle East. Imbued in an activist and underground lifestyle, the Muslim brotherhood drew its power from its ability to mobilize its members and supporters en masse and with short notice, as well as its extensive knowledge of public opinion and the way to manipulate domestic and foreign events to further their agenda.
The issue with underground and banned groups and congregations is that ideological battles are their expertise. Realpolitik and political practice have not been mastered by 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 typical of the organization: although the assassination of the president would not have had an impact on the policies of its administration, the Brotherhood envisioned this attempt as a show of force to confirm its defiant stance against the government. If the Brotherhood had any knowledge of political engagement, it could have mobilized its extensive human and financial capital to lobby and influence policy-makers in order to shape policies that best served their agenda or that of the Egyptian people.
The same behavior continued during the Arab Spring and Egyptian revolution, a revolution that can be seen as a standing ovation to the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to hijack mass protests through subtle engineering of public opinion. As the regime fell and the prospect of power became real for the Muslim Brotherhood, the newly legitimate organization assumed political office through its political party, the Freedom and Justice party. Despite 84 years of activity, the Muslim Brotherhood assumed state responsibility with a lack of political experience or exposure to the intricacies of governance and state management.
Although a gloomy prospect for Egyptian domestic affairs, the Muslim Brotherhood remains the only viable option in a political spectrum hugely divided between disorganized political actors. Whether liberal, secularist or moderate Islamist, the plethora of political establishments in Egypt are far from the political plurality that is a sign of a healthy democracy. Political parties in Egypt are inefficient and unable to run a consensual government cohesive enough to withstand the challenges of the post-revolutionary state. The opportunities that the revolution offered led to the exponential rise in the formation of political parties and groups; a much-expected trend in the Egyptian arena. However, this trend meant it was impossible to form a non-Islamist majority government, and signaled the death of the system of Egyptian pluralistic governance.
Some of the political establishments, in great parts remnants of the old regime, have the ability to govern and handle the domestic affairs of Egypt. However, they remain largely overwhelmed by the far-reaching discipline and organization of the Brotherhood, and continue to be seen in 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 accept a political compromise and an ideological shift. The Muslim brotherhood lacks the experience that statesmanship requires, an experience that can be offered by the secularists and the liberals. Although seen as an ideological threat, the Muslim brotherhood can still accommodate these factions in the state by offering a mutual governance of Egyptian affairs, a mutual governance that can be exploited by the Muslim brotherhood in order to gain the political maturity needed for a powerful governing organization. The Muslim Brotherhood will not be able to fully assume its responsibilities unless it decides to relegate its rebellious ideology and affinity towards opposition for a more governance driven line of thought. It is important to realize that the times of staunch opposition are over, and the era of political practice has begun. If the Brotherhood is to persist in its political immaturity, it will lose the hearts and minds of the supporters who propelled it to power, and it will miss out on the golden opportunity to transform its principles and values into actual policies through the powerful medium of the state and parliament.