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Maybe time for the MB?

A political accommodation needs to be created with regards to the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr H A Hellyer argues

Dr. H.A. Hellyer
Dr H. A. Hellyer

Ramadan this year has hardly been a month of contemplation and reflection for most Egyptians. It is hard to remember in recent years a time when the situation has been more tense, more difficult, and more on edge. It seems, however, owing to international pressure, the brakes have been applied (if only momentarily) on the rising temperature – and at no point in the past month has there been a better time to impress upon all parties the sense of urgency for closing a political deal. What can that deal look like?

It is a pity, as a senior European diplomat put to me, that the resolution of this crisis ought to be considered as a “deal”. In an ideal world, the resolution of this predicament ought to be on the basis of the rule of law, with minimal need for political negotiations. This is, after all, a problem between different internal forces – not a war between two different states. But, alas, Egypt does not reside in a perfect world (what country does?). Unfortunately, the rule of law is little more than a slogan for different parties to use to increase their own partisan benefit, while assuming that their own political outlook is identical to that of Egypt as a whole.

Few, if any, are able to say they want otherwise. The military overthrew the legal, legitimate president, Mohamed Morsi, justifying it on the basis of security and the protection of the state. In its declared view, the law was unfortunately, but necessarily, suspended (along with the constitution), with a view to building a more robust democracy in the near future. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood also engaged in illegal activity, ranging from violent actions to the disruption of the lives of millions by obstructing public transport. They also view their actions as necessary to ensure the continuation of Morsi’s presidency, which they believe will lead to a more democratic future.

Those are the main viewpoints – and it is inconceivable either side will give up on their perspective.

Nevertheless, here are the facts on the ground, beyond issues of law. The Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and the presidency, all lost popular legitimacy. Polling and research studies released by Gallup and Tahrir Trends show all that clearly: these groupings and institutions disappointed an overwhelming majority. Did the military overthrow on 3 July have a corresponding support base among Egyptians at large? That is presently inconclusive – but on the basis of tremendous public support for the military, that is quite likely. Was it legally justifiable? It is probably as justifiable, or as unjustifiable, as the intervention on 11 February 2011 that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Was it popularly justifiable? The two main sides to this dispute both argue they have popular support – and all signs indicate that the supporters of the ousted president are fewer than supporters of the military.

Does that mean Morsi’s supporters ought to be ignored? No – they are a sizeable, if numerically minor, proportion of the population – and they ought to be respected with regards to legitimate demands. A political accommodation needs to be created – and if done correctly, it could be to the benefit of all.

What are the main points of a deal that has the best chance of being sustainable and to the benefit of all?

Here are six points that ought to be seriously considered:

1. The Brotherhood worries it will be outlawed and sent underground. It ought to receive assurances that it will not be, and that it will be fully recognised as an NGO, under an NGO regimen that is just and applies to all NGOs in Egypt. Naturally, that will entail commitments to transparency and the absence of weaponry of any kind.

2. The Freedom and Justice party, as a political force that has a religious reference (rather than speaking in absolutist terms in the name of God or religion) has significant support in the country – anywhere between 12% and 17% based on multiple recent polls. It should continue to exist as a political party, and be allowed to run in forthcoming parliamentary elections.

3. Those elections, and at least the next two parliamentary and presidential elections, should have a full array of international observers to ensure the confidence of the public and all parties in the democratic process.

4. This will entail the recognition of the interim government by all parties – including the FJP. The reinstatement of Morsi cannot be envisaged as a realistic possibility by anyone – and it would behove the Brotherhood to prepare its followers to recognise that as early as possible.

5. A genuine peace and reconciliation process, combined with full transitional (rather than vengeful) justice, is desperately needed. That may mean that a series of individuals be placed on trial for crimes they have been accused of for the last three years – but it may also mean that as part of a political, rather than simply legal, settlement results in pardons or symbolic sentences. This is not easy, and hasn’t been in any country that has engaged in this – but it entails far less loss of life than the alternatives.

6. There is one key state institution that is fundamentally, and existentially feared, by supporters of the Brotherhood, as well as many other non-Islamist forces in Egyptian society. That is the Ministry of the Interior – and neither Field Marshal Tantawi, nor Morsi, have engaged in efforts to deeply reform this institution. That is unsurprising, because it would require a strong consensus from political forces to actually achieve the needed reforms for the benefit of all Egyptians. A good step in that regard would be to appoint a professional human rights specialist as Minister of the Interior, with the full backing of all political forces – and preferably with full and open support of the military, which currently has the confidence of the overwhelming majority of people. The Ministry of the Interior would find it very difficult to withstand any genuine pressure coming from the Defence Ministry to reform – and it is unlikely the Ministry would reform on its own.

These points are difficult to realise – but they are vital for any truly sustainable transition to a full-fledged democracy that can stand on its own two feet for the foreseeable future. They will have their detractors – but as long as internal political forces view governance as a zero-sum game, Egypt is likely to continue in a state of unpredictable flux that can easily spiral from time to time into crisis.

Egypt is a strong country that has withstood a great deal in its recent history – but it deserves more than to simply survive. It has the right to thrive – and to realise the promise of those millions that fought for the January 25th Revolution. That promise is still alive – and friends of that revolution, inside and outside of Egypt, ought to spare no effort in giving it the best chance it can get.

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  • Scotty

    OMG and here we go again. it seems to me that every one who repeats the mantra that Morsy was the legal, legitimate president is in fact an agent of the MB. The West has to concede that the only difference between Morsy and Hitler is that the later was a strong personality. The goals of the MB and its morshed are pure fascism and those 10% who are followers are brainwashed idiots who have no clue about the true teachings of Islam. I say no to any accommodation! Religious fascism cannot have any place in a free and democratic Egypt.

    • deeniman

      Actually the true teachings of Islam advises against ‘overthrowing the government’. The Sunna is very clear in this regard…. Someone does not know about the true teachings of islam – do they?

      • Scotty

        Subsequently Ben Ali, Ghaddafi and Mubarak should be still ruling and Sadat should not have been assassinated by the MB … reason enough to have a secular state and keep religion in the mosque.

        • deeniman

          I suppose secular states don’t fail; either that, or the fact that they do, kills your narrative. First of Ickwan did not assassinate Sadat. 2ndly every overthrow you mentioned was agitated by a foreign power. And 3rdly no, Mubarick should have never been overthrown – tell me have things gotten better? Why not ask Libya how things have gone since Khadaffi’s overthrow? Or for that matter Sadaam’s Iraq, things were bad then – how much worse are they now; by the way the aforementioned countries have secular governments. No, Tammarods power move risk a civil war, in which intelligence analyst are predicting will look like Syria and last anywhere from 5-10 years to settle. Are things better?

          • Scotty

            Things are not better, because the Ikhwan proved to be as corrupt as their secular predecessors and on top of that they were pretty incompetent to serve a country. They just wanted to rule.

            I do not see a civil war. Ikhwan is losing followers on a daily basis and their opponents have such an overwhelming majority that they would be extinct if they chose a violent solution.

          • deeniman

            I’m sorry, I just smashed your efforts at tying Ickwan to Sadaat. Every other assertion you made, I ruined. You mentioned ‘true Islam’. I advised you that overthrowing the government is against the Sunna – so are you now saying that the Rasool(pbuh) was a mistake? Btw, either you aren’t Egyptian, or you only get you news from state media – Ickwan is growing in size.

          • Scotty

            I am Egyptian and I do consider myself being modern and open-minded. Religion is between me and God Almighty. I do not follow blindly any statement by people who died thousands of years ago, because I live now. Sunnah btw says, If the corrupt ruler does not turn away from his evil deeds,
            he should be overthrown or removed from position.

            Soon even the last follower of the Ihwan will recognize that Ikhwan are messengers of Sheitan arrageem and that they are of no use for Egypt, ISA!

    • Tahir

      If I say you are the agent of Judiciary, Military, Capitalists Media and Bureaucracy than what you say. Morsy can only be removed by the power of ballot not by bullet. the coming few weeks will prove it. MB and Morsy did blunder but they can be removed only by ballot and not by bullet of Al-Sisi. If Al- Sisi does not surrender before law to face the treason charges than there would be a counter cuop within armed forces. Remember the history of Jamal Naseer. It is not !952, it 2013. The remanant of old regimes in the guise of deep rooted state can not befool the people now.It is finished in turkey, in Pakistan and now it is going to eliminated in Egypt as well.

      • Scotty

        Those blunders might not be sufficient to remove him from office. It is actually that he was just an extended arm of the morshed (nobody wants to be ruled from Muqattam) and his constitutional declarations elevating himself above the Law and above the democratic mandate which he had. he lost it and thereby he lost his legitimacy. Like in Egypt religious oppression will fall in Tunisia, In Turkey and hopefully in Iran too.

        • Tahir

          For your kind information they are not failed in Turkey. In Turkey they followed rule of law. In Turkey the coup leader of deep rooted state within state, that is, General Ilker Basburg was sentenced to life imprisonment. It is highly likely that this will happen to Al- Sisi in Egypt as well. Morsy came through ballot and if you call him terrorist than you can remove him by ballot if majority of the people like this. Personal opinion and rhetoric can only be expressed through ballot and not by bullet. Using Corrupt Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Capital Class, Media and Military who are the remnants of old dictatorial regimes is not a way to remove a popularly elected president for the first time in Egyptian history. There is no question of Morsy return, the most important question is that Al-Sisi will have to go now and face the music for orchestrating coup against the democratic and legitimate order. the structure of deep rooted de facto state, headed by Al-Sisi, is crumbling now and will vanish sooner.

          • Scotty

            I can just repeat: Morsy elevated himself above the Law and above the democratic mandate which he had. He lost it and thereby he lost his legitimacy. Hitler was elected by democracy as well and turned out to be a monster. The Ihwan regime had to be removed by all means and Al-Sisi will go down in history as our national hero – Morsy, however, will be held accountable for every Egyptian who was tortured and killed by his henchman.

          • Tahir

            Hitler was elected democratically but he killed more that five million people. Morsy killed non while the coup regime killed more than three hundred people just in one month. Believe it or not Al- Sisi have to face treason charges sooner or later for overthrowing a legitimate government and abrogating constitution. World has changed now. Egypt can not live in isolation for political reasons. MB will again in power by popular mandate. Wait for for the date.

  • tamer

    I still don’t comprehend how seemingly educated people cannot get it through their heads that election victory doesn’t give legitimacy. It only gives the winner his/her first day in office. After that legitimacy rests on that person’s actions with regards to the law while in office. Also economic results or opinion polls do not have any affect on legitimacy. Millions of people in the street demanding the resignation of a legitimate president doesn’t justify the army removing him.
    However, if that president had broken the law by granting himself absolute powers in a constitutional coup, and then ratified a constitution under the conditions of that coup, then he is no longer legitimate, that constitution is void, and his time in office becomes dependent on the balance of power in the street. It’s very very simple actually.
    With regards to the 6 points above:
    1)the MB being banned or not is dependent upon how honest and truthful we want to be with ourselves and the level of risk we are willing to take. It is no secret that the MB is predominantly a political machine. If we give it NGO status and just ignore its political activities (as current NGO laws do not allow the mixing of both), same should be applied to all NGO. Now are we willing to allow charities to have a political edge? What happens when these charities have foreign origins and funding? Will there be any difference between buying votes at the polling stations or just buying them 2 weeks earlier with aid?
    2) | 3) | 4) yes definitely.
    5) Does this just apply to MB or also NDP? The people are accusing the MB of the same crimes as NDP, only on a smaller time frame. Why would they accept special treatment for MB? Also many actually feel that MB betrayed the people, that they “stepped on the bodies of the victims” to gain power and consolidate it. Shouldn’t the same political exclusion law that was applied to NDP apply to Mb? or revoke it completely.
    6) The MOI has a para-military culture, developed over decades, which will not accept a civilian leader. For this suggestion to work, you need years of cultural change. Also in this critical time, the risk of an incompetent minister who can’t tackle the issues on the ground is too high. If you hit the ministry too hard, they will react the same was as under Morsi, they won’t cooperate. Then what? you fire all police?
    Also the MOD has the same mentality as the MOI. By nature and necessity believe that “the ends justify the means”. The MOD will not implement real change in the MOI.
    I suggest instead of putting a human rights expert in charge, create a powerful human rights department within the MOI that reports to parliament or president, not the minister. Their task is not just oversight but cultural change within the organization. Again if the MOI officers feel they are under siege, they won’t comply, they already know how powerful their position is. The grandest political coalition will not survive a non-cooperative police. They won’t need to do anything illegal, just not do anything at all.

  • Tahir

    In your other article you said it is a legitimate coup. Al-SIsi brought a coup against an elected government with the help of deep rooted state of old authoritarian regimes of Mubarik and his predecessors. This deep rooted state consist of Judiciary, Bureaucracy, Capitalists, Media and Military. Your opinion is same as that of deep rooted state media propagate on biased channels. Al-Sisi has failed in his designs. The corrupt structure of this deep rooted state is crumbling and in the process of gradual demolition. the only solution to this crises is the reconciliation between political forces within Egypt. the only option for army and Al-Sisi is to go back to their barracks. In civilised societies army has no role in government and politics. Egyptian people are civilised but its illegal deep rooted state is harsh uncivilised and brutal and kill his own people.

  • schamass

    Humm, weren’t they given amble opportunities to participate in the political process but they kep insisting on the return of Morsi? Typical from Article from the Brooking institute, a neocon think tank!

  • “It is probably as justifiable, or as unjustifiable, as the intervention
    on 11 February 2011 that led to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.”

    Mubarak was never elected in anything anyone ever regarded as a free and fair election.

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