The situation in Egypt today has become even more complicated, and Egypt will experience a period of tension after the two teams that will compete at next month’s presidential run-off vote have been revealed. There is the “Muslim Brotherhood” team led by Captain Mohamed Mursi, who will face off with the “former regime” team that is captained by Ahmed Shafiq. This match will be no less heated than the frenzied Cairo derby between those perennial rivals, Al-Ahly S.C. and Zamalek S.C.
If the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party candidate wins the elections, his government will enjoy a degree of comfort in its dealings with the Egyptian parliament and Shura Council, particularly as Islamists – and those who sympathize with this trend – enjoy a strong presence there. However a Mursi-run government would find it more difficult to run the country because “Mubarakists” are still in control of major pillars of the Egyptian state, including the military, the security apparatus, the media, the economy and even the political scene. Even if Dr. Mursi is able to replace these figures, Mubarak’s presence remains deeply-rooted throughout the country.
To clarify this image, let us look at a realistic example. Successive Pakistani leaders – with different political affiliations and agendas – including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, Pervez Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif and others – all sought and failed to bring the Pakistani military under control. Even the US, in spite of the pressure it has exerted and its political and economic influence, has reached the point of complete exhaustion in its attempts to do this. In fact, the revelation that Osama Bin Laden was in hiding in a residential compound not far from a Pakistani army base and intelligence headquarters represents the deathblow to US attempts to control the Pakistani army.
This is precisely what prompted critics, even those who are sympathetic with the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for “monopolizing” the scene, namely Egypt’s parliament, Shura Council, Higher Constitutional Committee and most recently, the presidency. In fact, the Brotherhood should have left the presidency for somebody else, and this would have served as a strong message of reassurance to the political powers in Egypt. This is not to mention the fact that even if a non-Brotherhood candidate is elected as president, he will nevertheless serve as a minesweeper for the Muslim Brotherhood, getting rid of all the Mubarak landmines present on the political scene, along the lines of Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement which allowed President Moncef Marzouki to serve as a minesweeper for Ben Ali’s political landmines. Whilst it is true that the Ennahda Movement does not agree with Marzouki’s positions and views, they share an antagonism towards Ben Ali and a willingness to remove any traces of his presence.
As for what if Ahmed Shafiq wins the elections, this scenario would be precisely the same, although reversed. The Islamists in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, now being in a position of power, will exhaust his rule. Whilst it is true that Mubarak – and prior to him Sadat and Nasser – enjoyed absolute authority, the Brotherhood nevertheless remained a thorn in their side, and they all failed to tame or weaken the Muslim Brotherhood organization in spite of the mass detentions, torture, political constraints and the media war that was waged against them and their ideology. This was due to the Brotherhood’s strong influence, organization and popularity. In this case, what can we say about a post-revolution president with limited powers, alongside a parliament that was freely elected, which is something that the entire world is testifying to?
(Dr. Hamad Al-Majid is a journalist and former member of the official Saudi National Organization for Human Rights. This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on 29 May, 2012)