Last Updated: Wed Jul 11, 2012 08:47 am (KSA) 05:47 am (GMT)

A probationary period for the Muslim Brotherhood and the military

Jihad el-Khazen

Two days before Dr. Mohammed Mursi’s victory in the presidential election was declared, I was contacted by an Egyptian colleague who worked for the campaign of General Ahmed Shafiq. She claimed to me that the military council notified the latter that he had won the election. Then on the following day, she came back to me with more details.

And then hours before the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate was declared the winner, she contacted me again to say that the military council had dispatched a unit of the Republican Guard to Ahmed Shafiq’s house at seven am, to escort him to the presidential palace. Shortly after that, his rival was declared the winner.

The colleague called me after that, crying and claiming that there was a ‘conspiracy’, and asked me to help her immigrate to Canada or find work in the Gulf.

This colleague is professional and rational. Nonetheless, I found her account hard to believe, and attributed it to her enthusiasm for Ahmed Shafiq, the candidate she supported. However, I was surprised a few days ago when I saw that Robert Fisk, a credible British journalist known for his sympathy with Arab causes, was offering a similar account to the one I had heard from her.

Despite this, I can still confirm nothing, and perhaps the future shall reveal the secrets of Egypt’s recent elections, and the deals that were secretly held on the eves of both rounds of those elections, specifically in the few hours that preceded the declaration of Mohamed Morsi as the new president of Egypt. Only then will we know whether the military council had indeed held a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood for sharing power in the country, whereby the military’s state within the state is established, with a president devoid of presidential powers. This way, the military would avoid a second revolution and million-strong marches that the Brotherhood are the best party able to organize them, to protest the defeat of their candidate.

What we know today is that the deals that preceded the announcement of the election results are not final. Indeed, the struggle for power had begun in earnest both before and immediately after the announcement.

The Supreme Constitutional Court helped the military a few days before the run-off in the presidential election to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament. But two days ago, the new president decided to challenge the military, and ordered the reinstatement of the parliament, perhaps in an attempt to determine the extent of his powers in running the affairs of the country.

The Supreme Administrative Court then dismissed, two days after the victory of Dr. Mohammed Mursi, the imposition of emergency rule, which would have allowed the military to detain civilians. This court is now even considering the legality of the decision to dissolve parliament.

Perhaps Egypt will then end up with a Turkish-style system, with a public civilian government and a secret military one.

The problem in the current polarization between the Brotherhood and the military is that Egypt is facing severe problems that cannot be delayed until the political situation stabilizes. There is no secret at all what the priorities are: Security then the economy.

Egypt’s internal security collapsed during the popular uprising, leading to the decline in tourism and the exodus of foreign investments, with no new investments coming in to replace them. Nay, even Egyptian investors who were able to do so took their money abroad, while the Egyptian pound is facing enormous pressure that may well push its value further down.

Moreover, the balance of payments is under pressure, and the government may default on certain foreign debt payments, all while the U.S. Congress is threatening to halt, or has indeed halted, aid to Egypt – with opposition from the Obama administration which has expressed its willingness to deal with a Muslim Brotherhood administration in Egypt.

In truth, Arab countries are more important for the future of Egypt’s economy, and perhaps President Mohammed Mursi on his visit to Saudi Arabia tomorrow, will dispel some of the suspicions regarding the intentions of the Brotherhood as explicitly expressed by many Gulf officials.

In the meantime, the number of Egyptians below the poverty line has increased from 40 to 50 percent, in conjunction with rising unemployment, especially among young people.

Egypt has been negotiating with the IMF for month now, over a loan of US$ 3.2 billion. If an agreement is reached, this will provide a breather to the new administration, to focus on finding solutions to the problems surrounding the economy. Personally, I hope that the focus will be on finding new jobs because unemployment threatens security, which is in turn at the heart of economic recovery, like the one promised by Dr. Mohamed Morsi to the voters.

Many maintain that the Muslim Brotherhood lacks the practical experience in running the economy, because they had never been in power and have no qualified cadres to do the job. However, we all know that among the leaders of the group there are successful businessmen such as Khairat al-Shater. If they had once succeeded under a regime hostile to them, then they are indeed able to achieve a bigger success under a friendly one; there also are strong indications that the Brotherhood wants to build a free market economy.

Today, Egypt is undergoing a probationary period for both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. Both sides will stand to gain, and will benefit every Egyptian, if the phase of polarization and dispute over powers ends quickly, making way for the phase of rebuilding Egypt by the hands of all her children. Otherwise, they will both pay a price, along with the people, if each side chooses to place its own interests above those of the homeland.

The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in the London-based al-Hayat on July 10, 2012

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