Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Brotherhood’s Dilemma in Ruling Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An Egyptian protester and fan of al-Masry football club waves a flare as others chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the prison in the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Port Said on January 25, 2013. (AFP)

It is not too early to say now, after the recent succession of unfortunate events, that President Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood are facing a real dilemma. The elections have been postponed by order of the judiciary, while civil disobedience continues in Port Said, as private property and government offices are burned down. Clashes and skirmishes have also spread to other cities in the Delta—Mansoura and Mahalla—and more dangerous than all this, police factions have rebelled and begun to join the protests. This worsening situation is exacerbated by the failed and fragmented Egyptian opposition, united only by their opposition to the president. A segment of this opposition is clearly dishonest; aiming to thwart the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood even if they ignite the whole country in doing so, supported by an intoxicated media force that delivers more painful blows to an already severely strained situation, laughing sardonically at the confusion of the president and his fragile government.

This is a real dilemma, because with regards to the security deterioration, the president is facing two bitter solutions: Firstly, he could adopt a strict and firm approach to security by using live ammunition against the thugs and vandals who are attacking public and private property, some of whom carry weapons. This is the solution advocated by some supporters of the president and his Islamist allies, and this is also the demand of a significant portion of the people who are growing tired at the continuing unrest and protests that have contributed to the deterioration of the economic situation, the decline in currency, and rising prices.

This solution involves significant risk because using force will pour more fuel on the already burning fire, potentially accelerating the country’s downfall into a spiral of violence and counter attacks. If a security officer shot dead one thug on the street, would the deceased turn into a martyr or national hero? Would we hear people ask “what crime did he commit that he deserved to die?” And then, what if the death toll turned into the dozens and hundreds?

The second solution, and this is what has so far been adopted by the president and his advisory team, is as follows: To exercise the highest degree of restraint towards violence and attacks on private and public property, and not to use arms against the perpetrators of these offences. This solution, although it appears humane and wise, also has serious side effects. It means more insecurity, a decline in the prestige of the ruler, and the further deterioration of the economic situation. If the people are not fed when they are hungry, and not protected when they are scared, then they will pay little attention to a ruler’s kindness, humanity, and humility, even if he lives in a modest rented apartment.

Certainly, Egypt is a complex state with remnants and collaborators who are actively seeking to undermine the president and his group, and distort the role they are playing in what is happening. This fact however does not diminish the other side of the coin, namely that those who are objecting, protesting, and demonstrating are not all remnants or conspirators. The opposition includes a segment that does not have an affiliation and voted for Mursi not out of appreciation for him but out of hatred for Shafiq. This particular segment, if it does not find the president doing what he was elected for, will quickly shift into an opposition and this is what is happening now. This explains the declining popularity of the president, because of dissatisfaction towards his style of governance.

The president and the Brotherhood have no choice but to accommodate various forces and engage with them in governance, regardless of the degree of their animosity towards them. It is not true that these are the demands of the National Salvation Front alone, even some Salafis and independents—who tipped the balance in Mursi’s victory over Shafiq—have now begun to demand a real and honest expansion in government participation, to pull the country out of its current impasse. The participation of the opposition groups in power will not only clip their sharp claws, it will mean that everyone plays a part in the government’s success or failure, rather than one faction alone.