By Omar El Sabh
CAIRO: Once more the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau has presented Egyptian politics with a black box by fielding their business tycoon Khairat Al Shater in the presidential race. This move comes at a time when the political landscape has witnessed heavy jostling between the country’s two strongest camps, SCAF and the MB.
Last week, statements and accusations were thrown by each camp in what seemed to open the door for a pending showdown between the two giants; recalling the March 1954 scenario. SCAF’s Administrator page (whose editorial team remains a shady issue) accused the MB of “inciting armed Jihad against SCAF.” This accusation stemmed from a statement the MB released on March 24 criticizing Kamal Al-Ganzoury’s government over its monstrous failures and questioning SCAF’s intentions by clinging so strongly to the misprisions of the government.
The issue of threatening the constitutional legality of parliament has also been a cause of concern for the MB and FJP leadership. The MB’s statement referred explicitly to this threat, which Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi rejected as being fallacious.
The move to endorse Al Shater runs in an almost treacherous move to what the MB’s Shoura Council took as a decision last February when it assured the public that it would not field a presidential candidate. This move was supposed to alleviate fears of western governments and secular camps in Egypt over the Brotherhood’s political intentions. Now the issue is becoming more complicated.
The FJP’s threats to hold a no confidence vote over the Ganzoury government run in tandem to what the Brotherhood’ leadership fears day by day, the reduction of its popularity in the street. The gas and bread crises, continued depletion of foreign reserves with no compensatory policies, the spread of the Foot and Mouth Disease in the countryside, and the continuous state of lack of security and other governmental fiascos are but a few issues that could abate the Brotherhood’s popularity.
The party’s bitter pill lies in the fact that it has no representatives in the governmental apparatus, which according to them could ideally change the decision-making process by presenting the people with tangible solutions to their daily hurdles.
Another dilemma also enters the equation in light of Al Shater’s bid. The nature of Egypt’s political system is a conflicting cause of concern to the MB and SCAF. SCAF knows it needs to be in control of the president, who would be head of the armed forces and major actor in the National Security Council. In that light, analysts say SCAF is a proponent of the presidential system and will be pushing determinately for the creation of the NSC in the new constitution. This system gives more leverage to the military establishment, which would immunize itself from civilian and parliamentary oversight by co-opting the president to its predilections. Moreover, the scrutiny over its budget and affairs will be entrusted to the NSC. Therefore the president would have to be on par with SCAF’s intentions.
Furthermore, the SCAF seems to be skeptical about giving all powers (e.g. the ability to amend constitutional articles) to a body dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, who have specified more than once that they seek to establish a parliamentary system for Egypt’s polity.
Thus, SCAF and MB are at loggerheads over the most important aspect of Egypt’s future political course, creating fundamentally divergent interests.
All of this frustrates the MB and FJP’s political elite. Enter Khairat Al Shater.
Due to the almost complete blackout of information of decisions made behind closed doors in the deep confines of the bureaucracy, the Al Shater move has various interpretations and implications.
A dual scenario presents itself and has been expressed by a leading analyst in Islamist movements studies. Amar Ali Hassan argued that “the endorsement of Al Shater, if it was taken in collusion with SCAF, then that would mean that the revolution is being completely liquidated. If that wasn’t the case, then the Brotherhood is on a collision course with the SCAF because they value their arrival to the stage of being in full control. Either way, the candidacy of Al Shater will change the balance of power in the presidential race, mostly by affecting [Abdel-Moneim[ Aboul Fotoh and [Hazem Salah] Abou Ismail’s bids.”
The first scenario seems unlikely. Even if Al Shater has been acquitted of his former charges over terrorism and money laundering, the dropping of these charges by the military court doesn’t necessarily mean that the SCAF gave the green light for the MB to push for such a move.
Moreover, his acquittal might have signified that it was because Al Shater would be the MB’s favored strongman to hold the Prime Minister’s position in the next government. The second scenario seems to pan out a bit better.
In a recent article published by the Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/27/egypt-scaf-safe-exit-deal), the MB cracked the lid over an alleged encouragement by Western Governments to grant a “safe exit” to Egypt’s military leaders. Reminding us that one of the most important concerns for the Generals is their safe exit from power which involves not being tried for the massacres that have happened under their rule and the financial dealings of its military economic empire.
Senior members of the FJP and MB have exposed an apparent covert international lobby by Western governments to grant a “safe exit” for the generals in exchange for a “smooth transition to democracy.” In light of such report, it may be safe to assume that SCAF’s interests and the MB’s are not completely in sync. This probably stems from the MB and FJP’s knowledge that they will be brought under immense pressure to redeem the blood of the martyrs if they grant a safe exit to the generals.
Even if this scenario is wrong, one point is certain. If the MB hadn’t completely sold out the indignant revolutionaries to secure its seat in power, and denouncing the nature of its frustration and anger as “Bandettas” (a mispronunciation of the term Vendetta, who’s masks came to symbolize many of the revolutionaries’ plight) or “drug addicts”, it would have had the backing of those enraged youths, eager to continue the revolution to the end. The MB is alone in this with SCAF. No matter who wins the battle or the presidential elections, the revolution continues. As one Twitter user put it, “they have their dirty power games, we have the street, and no one will ever constrict our freedom again.”