Egypt: opportunities, not threats

The argument that the country was in too much turmoil to hold elections has, so far, not been borne out


For much of the last year, the rise of political Islam as a beneficiary of the Arab spring has been seen as a problem, not an opportunity. Those who recall the influence that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sayyid Qutb became after his execution in 1966, on the Egyptian ideologue Ayman al-Zawahiri and his pupil Osama bin Laden, discount the schisms that followed. Zawahiri criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in elections for the Palestinian legislative council and denounced the Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence. To see the Brotherhood as a newcomer to democratic politics is not just to object to its social conservatism, but to perpetuate the argument, used for so long by dictators, that the autocrat you know is better than the extremist you don’t.
Events on the ground are forcing a reassessment. First came the electoral victory in Tunisia of Ennahda, the Islamic party which won 41% of the seats in the constitutional assembly, and which has since formed a transitional government with liberal, secular parties. On Thursday the official results of the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections were delayed, but the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) are sure now to be returned as the major party.

First, the process itself. In one week, the scenes in Egypt have shifted from protesters being gassed and blinded in Tahrir Square to Egyptians queueing for hours in the rain for their first taste of democracy. The worst fears of Tahrir Square have not been realised, and the high turnout has shown that a bigger Egypt lies beyond. This is not to devalue the political struggle that took place there, or the deep reluctance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to return to barracks. But the argument that the country was in too much turmoil to hold such elections has, so far, not been borne out.

The opportunity presented by a result that puts a reformist Islamist party to the fore is this: it is an endogenous movement. No outside force is imposing it on Egypt, not even Qatari money. The result emerging today is one that would have emerged any time in the last 30 years if it had not been suppressed by dictatorship. If the FJP can establish a track record of accommodating other trends and fashioning political consensus, as Ennahda is doing in Tunisia, a lasting exit from autocracy will have been secured. It will require time and patience. Pressure will be exerted on the FJP by the success of the fundamentalist Salafi party, which is running ahead of the secular Egyptian Bloc. An FJP coalition with progressives would be the best way of reassuring urban Egypt that it is not about to be plunged into rigid Islamic rule.

Related Articles

E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Aggressive New Strain

Mutant Bacteria The director of Lübeck’s University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UK-SH) exhibits the new strain of E. coli on Wednesday.

Siria: la intervención soñada

En relación con la más que probable “intervención” militar del gobierno de EEUU en Siria, hay dos posiciones igualmente absurdas:

Gaddafi tells West to stay out of Libya

Leader dismisses rebels as “rats” and urges supporters to confront a possible invasion of country for its oil   While

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment