Ahmed Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood!
A prominent analyst told me that what had taken place in Egypt was not a complete revolution. Some of the key details were agreed upon in advance, he added. Perhaps, the agreement was between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Military Council. They agreed to remove President Hosni Mubarak in what appeared to be a legitimate coup. Washington and Ankara were aware of the agreement. In fact, we noticed from the get-go that there was a kind of coordination and an agreement between the military and the Islamists. The agreement also allowed the Muslim Brothers to gain a huge number of seats in Parliament while the president was supposed to come from the army. This was included in an unwritten agreement.
There are several factors that confirm the fact that the election of an Egyptian president is not only an Egyptian issue. It is a position that maintains internal equation and reflects the size and effectiveness of the active forces. On one hand, the military has a say while on the other international and regional considerations play their role. Israeli and American security issues should be taken into account to understand the elections of a new Egyptian president.
Nonetheless, the Muslim Brothers have special position when it comes down to the peace treaty with Israel. So far the Brothers do not have the justification to deal directly with Israel, being a religious group. Should they deal directly with Israel, they would run the risk of losing on the moral grounds. Such a move would also reinforce the impression that the Brothers had a secret understanding with the Americans, Ankara, and perhaps with Tel Aviv. Therefore, the Brothers’ decision to put up a candidate for presidency means only to demonstrate their power. But the next president, as I said before, will be Ahmed Shafiq not Ahmadinejad as many Egyptian lovingly joke.
Therefore, we are getting close to the political approach of the Turkish Justice and Development Party. This party did not oppose the secular status of the state. Interestingly, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once remarked that his party believes in secularism, as it does not contradict Islam. We recall the last three sessions of the Muslim Brotherhood's international chapter that were all convened in Istanbul in the years 2009, 2010, and 2011. Arrangements were considered during the session of 2009 as Rashid Al-Ghannouchi and Mahdi Akif met with the Turkish prime minister in the presence of a senior American official. Erdogan declared that it was Rashid Al-Ghannouchi who led him to the pluralists and civil Islam. Al-Ghannouchi criticized Hamas for accepting the prime minister's post as he wanted them to be just representing the people in Parliament. The formation of the government entailed a kind of dealing with Israel, a step that was rejected by Hamas. For this reason, the experience of Hamas was a failure.
Some liberal Egyptians fear that the Brothers may dominate all authorities (legislature, executive, and judiciary) in Egypt. Ahmed Fathi is the head of the Consultative Council, Saad Al-Deen Al-Kitatni is the speaker of Parliament, and Mohammed Mursi may be the president of the country. With Mohammed Badi’ as the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, we have a case closer to Iran.
Amid this situation, all predictions and criticism will push the Brothers (if they prefer not to dominate the political scene altogether) to leave room for Shafiq to be the next president especially when the Islamists were shocked by the strength of the Nasserite candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi. But if the Islamists decide to cling on to power they will clash with the military and the people on the street. There is also a possibility of a turnabout in the internal balance of power and public opinion that will make it difficult for the Islamists to win the presidency.
The military leaders are convinced that control of the presidential post by the Islamists will be the straw that will break the camel's back. It will cause resentment and demonstrations will erupt.
In this case the army will be the one to mediate a solution. This notion is seconded by the thinker Hassan Elwi who argued that Islamists will try their best to control every bit of the state and the decision-making process. But they will lose at the end. Although the Egyptian society is religious, it is moderate and all the Egyptian agree on moderation.
Yet, amid this tense atmosphere, the possibility of anarchy and disorder exists as conspiracy still prevails in Egypt. There are still some regional actors who find in these conditions an exceptional opportunity to create tension as instability in Egypt is in the best interest of some other countries in the region such as Syria and Iran. Therefore it would not be in the essence of democracy for someone to say that the victory of Ahmed Shafiq will be on his or her dead body. This is a violation of the most important pillar of democracy, which states that one should accept the election results. Alternatively, the political isolation in this case will be similar to the moves resorted to by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki who wanted to alienate his opponents. Additionally, the constitutional court should have ruled in Shafiq’s case before and not after the elections.
Finally, I would like to say that a moderate model of the Brothers in Egypt is important. Therefore, the Brothers should make a distinction between their mobilization discourse and the political practice that is based on cooperation as well as conflict. They should understand that the Egyptian society does not view them as a religious party as much as a political one that should come up with solutions to the most pressing and burning problems that face the Egyptian society.