Rachel Shabi writes: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters have tried to frame the current crisis in religious terms, casting opposition to their speedily drafted constitution as the petulance of an anti-Islamist, liberal elite. Media analysis has often replicated this theme: in one corner stands Brotherhood-propelled President Mohamed Morsi who has the supposed blessings of a religious population. And in the other corner, the “secular” opposition, banging on about small details of a constitution that isn’t that bad. Such wrongheaded analysis prompted Egypt expert Dr HA Hellyer from the Brookings Institution to politely request that western media “knock it off“.
But the result of Egypt’s first referendum on the constitution (a second referendum takes place this Saturday, in districts that have yet to vote) has exposed some of the real sticking points. The referendum had to be split into two stages because so few Egyptian judges agreed to supervise it. And for all its legendary mobilising powers, of the votes cast the Brotherhood wasn’t able to get more than 57% for its constitution. Not long ago, the Brotherhood could rely on voter support reaching over 70%. And less than a third of the electorate turned out – though that might be because of the long queues and the difficulty in voting. In an atmosphere of mistrust and mismanagement, allegations of vote-rigging are rife.
But if Egyptians are, as results indicate, losing faith in the Brotherhood, it isn’t because the organisation is Islamist, but because it has so far been rubbish at ruling. Many believe the Brotherhood has kept its promises to power, but not to the people. Crucially, President Morsi’s economic policy has deepened the neo-liberalism that brought so much misery during the Mubarak era and was a key component of the uprising against him. [Continue reading…]