Egypt: The rule of the Brotherhood

Commenting on Mohamed Morsi’s rise to power, Yasmine El Rashidi writes: Many theories still circulate, trying to explain how he did it. The Brotherhood, it is said, propped up the Nasserist candidate Hamdeen Sabahy to bring Morsi’s Islamist rival Aboul Fotouh down. The US government quietly decided to support the Brotherhood. The Mubarak strongman Ahmed Shafik actually won but the Brotherhood threatened mayhem and so results were fudged.

Whatever the case, Morsi’s win seemed less about his popularity and the efficiency of the Muslim Brotherhood as a campaigning machine, and more about the opposition, particularly the splintered vote of the liberal and secular and leftist factions, whose choices of candidates offered little variation in their rhetoric and plans. Up until the final moment at polling stations back in June, many people I spoke to said they were undecided. Taken together, however, the opposition candidates received a sizable chunk of the vote.

Morsi won by three percent — 51.7 percent to Shafik’s 48.3 — while just over half the eligible electorate of 51 million took part. His supporters these days justify his actions as taken “on behalf of the people”; but the nation was not overwhelmingly behind him and his proclaimed ideals.

Was the nation divided between those in favor of the old regime and those in favor of the Islamists? Or was it the case that millions of young Egyptians who had taken to the streets to oppose Mubarak were voting “no” to Mubarak’s Shafik, rather than “yes” to Morsi? As the prominent newspaper editor Hassanein Heikal has said at dinner parties and on TV: “It was not that people knew what they wanted and were voting for it. They simply knew what they didn’t want, and they were voting against it.” Many of my own friends — who identify themselves as liberal, secular, “revolutionary”—voted against the possibility of a return to the life we had known. [Continue reading…]

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