Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood achieved spectacular gains in the parliamentary elections. This success was more than they could have hoped for despite the best efforts of the ruling National Democratic Party.
The outlook is worrying. One witnessed government candidates failing to retain their seats as other unknown candidates won. Across Egyptian cities, they demonstrated and campaigned without any fear, in the process breaking all the laws which prohibit the use of religious slogans. The next morning, they prevailed.
Did the Brotherhood succeed as a result of the government”s
shortcomings in the run-up to the polls or because of the weakness of the competition? The truth reveals that their success was the inevitable result of late concessions. Government representatives were enjoying their grip on power while the Brotherhood were enthusiastically waiting to take hold of it.
The government was misguided when, for 30 years, it refrained from setting up an electoral system that includes all rival forces in a framework which can be controlled. It continuously closed the door until the door was broken and the Brotherhood forced entry. For nearly eighty years, it has been clear that Muslim Brotherhood candidates will soon compete with NDP representatives. But the authorities believed that day to be in the distant future or did not want to believe that that day was approaching. The government used delay tactics, for as long as it could, until the promised day and its startling results came.
If the Egyptian authorities had organized its establishment, when it was still dominant, and incorporated the Brotherhood and other rivals, under certain conditions, it would not find itself today facing electoral chaos. The Muslim Brotherhood feels as if it has entered the fray and won in spite of the government, and has benefited from the international interest in the vote. They went ahead of themselves and the government was unable to force them to abide by what they had previously agreed on.
In my opinion, the government’s error, if we can call it such, occurred two elections ago, when the Muslim Brotherhood was forbidden from taking part, instead of being incorporated in a clear, fair and transparent system.
The Muslim Brotherhood grew overnight after they were given the green light to take part in the polls. It appeared as a powerful party with a popular message and political acumen. If the authorities had lifted the siege on the Brotherhood when it was still powerful and dominant, it would have extracted better concessions and strengthened its grip within the law.
The government would have been entitled to say, as others have, that it refuses religion to be manipulated for electoral gains and forbids them to call themselves the Muslim brothers but rather to use other names such as the development party, justice or renaissance, as others have. The authorities could have obliged the Muslim Brotherhood not to use religious slogans and disqualify those that did, because most of their competitors are also Muslims like them or Copts, who are an easy target.
If electoral rules were put in place at a time when the government was in a position of power, the Brotherhood would have been convinced to follow such rules and would have been responsible. As for the recent elections, the general feeling was that the official barrier had broken down and had removed the Muslim Brotherhood from a 70 year-old detention.
The majority of Arab governments give in at the wrong time… Late concessions usually bring about bad results.