Today presidential candidate El Baradei declared the end to his campaign complaining that with SCAF the old regime was still in power. Ayman Nour, another presidential candidate for the liberal side, also declared not to run for office anymore. With two hopefuls resigning from the presidential race the nerves of liberal revolutionaries in Egypt are on edge and conspiracy theories and rumours about a deal struck between the Muslim Brotherhood and SCAF abound on the internet. Quelle surprise, the French would say. But wait - you might be in for a surprise you had not thought of.
The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood held several talks with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces running Egypt under military rule is to many an indication that a deal was made between the two how to divide power amongst them. Fact is - not only the Muslim Brotherhood held talks with the army generals, practically all important parties in Egypt did. Fact is too - the Muslim Brotherhood has secured almost half of the votes for parliament in the elections and both - MB and SCAF - know what kind of power that means.
Declarations from some MB members regarding the army, regarding even giving impunity to the army for killing of protesters, seems to show that the MB is taking sides with SCAF. When clashes killed 43 protesters around Tahrir and Mohamed Mahmoud street in November, the MB was strikingly silent and did not join in the protests defending the peoples rights. This too is taken as a sign that the MB was siding with SCAF. What is overlooked however is that only days prior to that the MB held a huge "Friday anger" rally in Tahrir demonstrating with all might the power it feels it has with half of the population behind it. That was a clear sign send to the generals to beware and to take the MB very seriously. - You do not send signs like this if you take sides.
What the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the clashes clearly did not want, was for the generals to get the impression that the MB was part of the protesting revolution attacking the state. Even more, the MB wanted at no costs that the majority of the population - the so called silent majority - too would think the MB was part of what many (thanks to Maspero and SCAF) called thuggery and chaos spreading. To them the MB was supposed to be the nonviolent strong power in the storm the people could look up to in these times of trouble. Almost 46% of the votes in the past election proved the tactic of the Muslim Brotherhood right. They got what they wanted - almost half of the parliamentary seats - because they stayed away from the uprisings and only spoke up when it was in their favour.
You can call this cowardly, hypocritical, dishonest, unethical, deplorable, disgusting and much more - but to make it short, just use the one term that is commonly associated with this - it's politics.
Yes, what the Muslim Brotherhood did was playing politics to gain power. Quelle surprise.
Regarding the fact that more than 900 brave and mostly young Egyptians lost their lives in and for this revolution, playing politics as coldly as the MB did can be regarded as having a sickening aspect to it. And many activists loudly voice their disgust at this behaviour.
But just for a moment try to change sides and look at it from the point of view of the MB.
They had been banned, threatened, arrested and killed in Egypt for decades under dictatorial rule. Now for the first time thanks to a revolution they at least in part participated in, they were allowed to stand for parliament. Nothing in the world could and would stop them from trying to gain a victory that would make banning them again forever impossible. To ensure their survival, the members of the MB practically had no choice but to play it cool, be utmost tactical in the way they went about and foremost see to it that they would not get into heavy conflict with the military that has basically - no matter what president was on top - ruled this country with an iron fist for so many decades. If MB got into serious clashes with SCAF, they might have gotten even for the many human rights violations they had endured in the past. But it would have endangered their chance to come out of the elections as the strongest force. And only if they could do that would they be able to face up to what has practically been their enemy now for almost 60 years.
It is thinking too short to suddenly invent a big partnership between MB and SCAF ignoring the fact that they are not friends and have no mutual interests at all. True - both want power. But that exactly is what cannot be achieved easily. The MB knows very well what power to the military means. They have lost more than one of their members because of it and they will not trust SCAF one bit. SCAF on the other side knows this too, fears the power the MB has gained now and hopes for any chance to keep their head above water. Had the MB actively taken part in many of the bloody clashes in Tahrir and around it would not have fared so well in the elections, the silent majority of Egypt would not have given them the mandate to be strong in parliamentary politics. Then what? How would the MB then have had a chance to step and speak up to SCAF?
Yes, call it disgusting from your point of view. That is more than understandable. But in politics when it comes to ensuring your survival - and especially in overthrowing a military dictatorship - emotions are just not enough to succeed. It needs careful, cold-blooded calculation and tactical approach to win. And the MB showed perfectly how to play the game. Their win at the elections not only proved them right, it also gave them the power now to stand up to the military in handing over power. And if their political views would not collide with those of many of the revolutionary youths, perhaps revolutionaries would not even be so appalled but silently applaud the coup to achieve a strong position to counter SCAF.
I would be much surprised if the Muslim Brotherhood - after securing parliament and presidency - would not start to play a tune the generals of the SCAF will not like. It might be that part of the tune will also not be to the liking of liberal Egyptians. But if any tune is going to have a chance to put the army back where it belongs, it must be one of strength and power. Only the MB with their overwhelming victory at the polls will be able to play that tune. And they will play it. Because there are a lot of atrocities at the hand of the military in the last bitter decades for them to remember.
Fact is, you don't have to like them for their political views. Hate them even for playing politics to win. But I would not want to be in the shoes of the generals if in the end the MB has the power. It's SCAF more than Egypt at the moment that has to beware. Don't fall for the trap that MB and SCAF are one hand. They never have been and I don't think they ever can be.