History will not forgive the Muslim Brotherhood if it fails to forge the broad coalition needed to beat Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister in the presidential election run-off, a prominent Islamist politician said on Thursday, warning that time was running out.
Abul Ela Mady, head of the moderate Wasat Party, said victory by former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in the July 16-17 run-off would lead to “a war of attrition” in the street between protesters and the security forces.
To avoid that outcome, Mady, a former Brotherhood member, said the group must offer guarantees to convince politicians and the public at large that it can be trusted in power, adding that the group’s leaders had so far been too slow to react.
“History will not have mercy on them, if they do not offer concessions and stand with the revolutionary forces, and in this case, both the nation and the group will pay the price,” Mady told Reuters in an interview.
The prospect of the second round run-off between the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi and Shafiq has presented voters with a wrenching choice between a symbol of the administration against which protesters revolted last year and an Islamist group of which many have grown increasingly wary.
The bulk of Egyptians voted for neither Shafiq nor Mursi. Close to 40 percent of the vote went to reform-minded independent candidates in the shape of leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdul Moniem Abul Fotouh, an Islamist.
Mady’s Wasat Party endorsed Abul Fotouh, another former Brotherhood member who presented himself as a champion of moderate Islam.
Founded in 1928 and banned for decades, the Brotherhood has long been a leading voice in the Egyptian movement for democratic reform. Yet its reputation has suffered in the 15 months since Mubarak was toppled.
It has been accused of acquiescing in the army rule that followed Mubarak's removal from power, putting a quest for office above principle and trying to squeeze others out of public life -- all charges it denies fiercely.
The Brotherhood is struggling to shake off a reputation for breaking its word: it had pledged to cap its electoral ambitions after Mubarak was toppled, but then went on to contest nearly every post in the land, not least of them the presidency.
“These actions have reached the ordinary man in the street who says: ‘you cannot trust them’,” Mady said.
Reformists have been urging the group to make clear commitments on power-sharing to build the broad support without which Mady said the Brotherhood could not win the vote.
“There are two weeks until the election. Time is not on their side,” Mady said. “The Brotherhood think that talk on its own is enough. But it is not enough,” Mady said.
Mursi this week pledged to form a broad presidential council and a coalition government if elected. But the commitments have so far fallen short of the defined, written guarantees Mady said were needed.
Mady attended a meeting called by the group last Saturday and aimed at building support for Mursi. He said statements made by the group since then were not enough to allay doubts. “I am neither optimistic or pessimistic. I am waiting,” he said.
“If they are serious in the presidential elections, they must offer concessions, because without concessions that convince the public, and not just the political elite, they will not be able to win this battle,” he added.
He added that the support of the Brotherhood’s core base and more conservative Salafi Islamist groups, which have already endorsed Mursi, would not be enough, pointing out that the Brotherhood’s share of the vote had more than halved in the presidential vote from the parliamentary election. Mursi and Shafiq each got slightly less than 25 percent of the vote.
Mady, 54, quit the Brotherhood in the mid-1990s to set up the Wasat Party but his efforts were repeatedly blocked by the Mubarak administration. He was jailed him after his first attempt to license the party. The Wasat Party finally secured a license days after Mubarak was toppled from power last year.
Though the party won some 2 percent of the seats in parliamentary elections held after Mubarak was toppled, it estimates that around 1 million people voted for it.
Mady said that, were Shafiq to win, he would seek to “recreate the old regime in a new way.”
“Nobody can turn the clock back, but he will protect all the corruption, he will entrench the existing state officials, he will draw on the military and security apparatus to oppress the people, and will go into new battles, as if the revolution did not yet succeed. This is the danger of Ahmed Shafiq,” he said.
“Something like a war of attrition will begin.”