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Mohammed Morsi, chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, was declared the winner of the presidential run-off held last weekend in Egypt. Morsi defeated former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, garnering nearly 52% of the vote to Shafiq’s 48%. What does Morsi’s victory mean? And more importantly, what kind of relationship will the new president forge with Egypt’s ruling military council who just recently dissolved the legally elected parliament, eliminated the assembly set up to write the constitution, and issued a “constitutional decree” that emasculated the powers of the presidency?
There is no doubt that Morsi’s victory has profound implications for Egypt and for the region. The Muslim Brotherhood, despite Washington’s insistence that it has evolved into a moderate political party, has never wavered in its belief that Israel should be destroyed, and that sharia law be implemented throughout Egyptian society. The Obama administration chooses to ignore the Brotherhood’s radicalism and violent past, in order to stay engaged with the Arab world’s largest and most populous country.
But realpolitik has its limits. To believe that the Muslim Brotherhood has morphed into a moderate, responsible political party, you must deliberately ignore its actions and accept what it has said at face value.
This, the Obama administration seems perfectly willing to do as the president called Morsi and congratulated him on his victory. The White House issued a statement on the president’s conversation with the Islamist leader that said, in part, “The United States will continue to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfill the promise of their revolution.”
Leaving the “promise of the revolution” in the hands of the Brotherhood is foolish. The list of promises made by the Muslim Brotherhood in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow that it has subsequently broken gives the lie to the idea that President Morsi and the Brotherhood are concerned about anything except advancing their agenda and seizing power.
1. The Muslim Brotherhood promised to run candidates for parliament in no more than 33% of electoral districts. The group ended up winning almost half of all parliamentary seats after running candidates in about 70% of the districts.
2. The Muslim Brotherhood promised not to run a candidate for president. In the end, the group ran two candidates after its first choice, Khairat al-Shater, was declared ineligible by the electoral commission. Morsi, its second choice, was elected president.
3. The Brotherhood promised to allow all factions in Egyptian society to be represented in the 100 member assembly that would draft a new constitution. The group rigged the process so that 70% of the seats went to Islamists.
“The big concern is that they are liars,” said Mohamed Abu Ghar, the head of the leftist Egyptian Social Democratic Party. “I’m scared that they are going to manipulate all the key positions and key places in the military, police and in the government offices for the Brotherhood.”
Each step of the way, the Muslim Brotherhood has promised to be inclusive, modest in its ambition, and respectful of all political parties in Egypt. What has happened instead is a naked grab for power that has frozen out all but token representation from the political opposition, and alienated much of the population. Morsi’s narrow victory — the result of a backlash against the Brotherhood by voters disgusted with its arrogance — denies him any semblance of a mandate that will certainly hamper his efforts at governing, at least for the foreseeable future.
Morsi, in his first public speech following the announcement of his victory, sounded like a broken record. He said all the right things about “inclusion,” made all the right noises about representing all of Egypt, and made sweet sounds about democracy and unity:
Egypt, the nation and the people, is in need for a unity of ranks and word so that this great and patient people could reap the fruits of its sacrifices.
Egypt is for all Egyptians. We are all equal in rights, and we all have duties.
We are all equal in rights, and we all have obligations to carry on for this country. As for myself, I have no rights, but I have obligations.
He also promised to “protect the rights of women and children,” as well as Christians and Muslims alike. And he promised to uphold all international agreements — a reference to the Israeli peace accord, even though he did not mention Israel by name.
Given the track record of the Muslim Brotherhood, why should we believe him?
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