Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Era of the Brotherhood | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Early events dictate the final result, and this is something that gives us the impression that the “post-Arab Spring” era will most likely be one dominated, to varying degrees, by the Muslim Brotherhood, depending on the country we are talking about, and its political structure and social development. This is something that will also depend on the Muslim Brotherhood’s viewpoint on how it will reach power for the first time, and whether it will do this by seeking to lead the political process, or strongly participating in this.

The Tunisian case gives credence to this idea, for this is the country that sparked the process of [political] change which has taken root in two other regional countries so far, namely Egypt and Libya. Whilst there are two other countries on the waiting list [for political change]; Yemen and Syria, although there are some different details with regards to how this [political] change is taking place, namely whether it is taking place in a relatively peaceful or bloody manner. It was Tunisia that conducted the first free and fair elections [of the Arab Spring], as unanimously agreed by the entire world, whose results were in line with public expectations, with the al-Nahda party – which is the Tunisian model of the Muslim Brotherhood – winning 40 per cent of the seats in the Tunisian Constituent Assembly. This means that the al-Nahda party is the strongest political force in the Tunisian Constituent Assembly which is responsible for governing the transitional period, whilst the other Tunisian political forces are scattered and fragmented, unless they are able to secure alliances with one another.

In Egypt, which shares similarities with Tunisia in terms of the manner in which the ruling regime was toppled and the stance adopted by the military towards the ousted regime, the first post-revolutionary parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place at the end of this month. It is expected that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will win close to the same percentage of parliamentary seats [as the al-Nahda party in Tunisia], if not more, and therefore the Muslim Brotherhood will possess the largest parliamentary bloc in the Egyptian parliament that is expected to lead the transitional process in the country, as well as select a committee to draft and approve a constitution as a prelude to the forthcoming presidential elections. Whilst in Libya, the transitional political process is different because of the time and blood it took to topple the regime, not to mention the NATO military intervention. However the current scene also gives us an idea about the political future of the country, namely a future where political Islam will be a major partner in the new [Libyan] government and regime.

Even western states that previously feared such [Islamist] trends due to fears of terrorism now tentatively accept the idea of politically dealing with Islamist trends in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, so long as they respect liberties the rules of the democratic game, and do not support terrorism. These [Islamist] currents have signalled their willingness to abide by this, whilst they have also issued signals to other political forces in society – mainly the secularist trends or the Copts in Egypt – reassuring them that they will be different in power than the impression that is held of them.

An example of this can be seen in the statement made by Rashid Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian al-Nahda party, following the announcement of the Tunisian election results, during which he highlighted the issues of women’s hijab, saying that this could not be imposed. Ghannouchi also spoke about democracy and the non-monopolization of power, whilst he also pledged to respect all Tunisia’s international treaties and agreements. In Egypt, the situation may be more complicated due to the presence of ten million or more [Coptic] Christians within the fabric of society, as well as due to the [political] competition that is taking place between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. This means that the Muslim Brotherhood has less room to maneuver than their Tunisian counterpart, whilst Tunisia is also more secular due to its proximity to Europe.

The question that must be asked here is: if the [political] situation proceeds in the direction that all signs indicates that it will, namely towards an era that we might describe as the “Muslim Brotherhood era”, then what will our society, politics, and inter-state relations look like [in the future]? Will the political reality of the situation and our international relations result in our countries adopting a political line closer to that of Turkey? Will the rules of the democratic game be respected? These are all open questions, as we are now sailing in uncharted waters. However what is certain is that this is a natural stage that societies must progress through, regardless of the trouble that this results in. [Political] change, as all signs indicate, is not an issue of one or two years, but rather one or two decades, or even an entire generation.