Brothers tread cautiously

Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Amira Howeidy, 12 – 18 January 2012.

On the cusp of winning a parliamentary majority, the Muslim Brotherhood’s survival as Egypt’s leading political force will hinge on how they address the legacy of Mubarak’s three decades in power, writes Amira Howeidy.   

This should be a time for the Muslim Brotherhood to savour their election victory. The final results of the parliamentary elections that ended yesterday will determine whether or not its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), secures a majority, ie half the People’s Assembly seats plus one. Currently hovering around 49 per cent of the total the Brothers – banned and persecuted for decades – have emerged as Egypt’s dominant political force.

But the Brotherhood’s vindication through the ballot box brings with it a host of potentially explosive challenges. Egypt is a poor country with a population of 85 million. The economy is faltering. There is flagrant inequality in wealth and opportunities. The security situation is volatile and the security apparatus seems capable of operating only when empowered by draconian emergency laws, in force since 1981.

It will not be lost on the Muslim Brotherhood that failure to address these problems brought down Hosni Mubarak’s regime. How, then, will the Brotherhood approach them?

Mubarak’s “legacy weighs heavy, not just on us but on all of Egypt”, says FJP leader Essam El-Erian. The realisation of just how entrenched “corruption and destruction” is “grows by the hour and by the day”. In other words, the situation is so bad the Brotherhood is not ready to shoulder the burden alone.

El-Erian’s statements can be read as an indirect response to ongoing speculation over the formation of a post-election government. Article 56 of the constitutional declaration of 30 March 2011 gives the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) the right to appoint the prime minister and cabinet. But Article 33 of the declaration – which serves as the constitutional reference for the interim period – stipulates that the People’s Assembly shall determine policy, the state budget, and oversee the executive authority.

The People’s Assembly cannot name the government, but it can dismiss it through a vote of no confidence, says Tarek El-Beshri, head of the committee which drafted the constitutional amendments that form the core of the 30 March declaration.

The support of the parliamentary majority, then, is crucial to the government’s survival … //

… Mubarak’s legacy, and how to defeat it: the Brothers clearly have too much on their plate to spend their time in debating whether bikinis be banned. (full long text).

Links:

Spring cleaning first, published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Niveen Wahish, 12 – 18 January 2012.

EGYPT’s foreign currency reserves down again, published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Niveen Wahish, 12 – 18 January 2012.

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