It is time that the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party and Egypt's new president was more clearly defined, writes Ahmed El-Tonsi
Apart from the common advice to the new president of Egypt, like the need to build national consensus and that he should be the president of all Egyptians, Mohamed Mursi, the newly elected president, should carefully watch his next steps in the light of the unique political scene reflected in the run-off election results.
Now is a heady time for the new president, who has been met with extreme enthusiasm, albeit for various reasons, by 50 per cent of the voters, while the other half has basically been against him. Moreover, the turnout in the elections was relatively low, denoting a sceptical if not a negative attitude towards the elections, the candidates, and the whole transition period. Around 50 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in the run-off elections. Mursi was partially voted for, in as much as he was the candidate of Egypt's largest political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Others voted for Mursi because they could not perceive Egypt's presidency going to anyone with links to the regime of ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, as was the case with the other candidate, Ahmed Shafik.
Based upon the results of the first round, the anti-Shafik component among those voting for Mursi could have been approximately 50 per cent. Such an uncertain majority and only mathematical victory should not obscure the facts underneath. One such fact is that Mursi is the first elected, as well as the first partisan, president. Belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, second only to the Wafd in terms of its age, Mursi benefited from the political strength of his power base. Ideologically as well as organisationally, Mursi has been a front-line leader in the Brotherhood, which duly nominated and campaigned for him in the elections. He would not have become president had the FJP not fielded him as its candidate, capitalising on the presidential elections law that permits each party represented in the parliament to nominate a presidential candidate.
Put differently, Mursi was thus absolutely a party nominee, in contrast to Khairat El-Shater, the previous Brotherhood candidate, whose candidacy was refused despite his endorsement by FJP MPs in the now-dissolved parliament. Another 50 per cent supported Mursi here, as he shared the FJP nomination with El-Shater before the latter's disqualification. Moreover, Mursi's electoral platform was formally that of the Brotherhood, including its famous Renaissance Project, to which he allocated a great part of his electoral campaign.
Among such an array of fifties, what cannot be perceived in this fifty-fifty ratio is the relationship between the Brotherhood, the FJP, and Egypt's new president. Mursi has been elected as president as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and as chair of the FJP, with an electoral platform that consisted of the Brotherhood's own political programme. There seems to be no convincing legal, political or practical reason for Mursi to relinquish his relationship with the parent association or its surrogate political party.
Mursi's resignation from the Brotherhood and its political wing the FJP would be meaningless, if not utterly incorrect, in terms of his previous commitment and in terms of the fact that many people voted for his electoral platform and not for him as an individual. Did Mursi come to the presidential elections with no platform? No, he did not. He was a strong advocate for the Renaissance Project, which contains the Brotherhood's views on Egypt's current situation and its proposals for addressing the country's appalling socioeconomic conditions. As such, it is Mursi's right, as well his organisation's right, to see such electoral promises fulfilled. This is the basis of any electoral contest that ends with the triumph of only one bidder, who is then entitled by majority vote to implement a platform that presumably formed the major thrust of his campaign and supposedly the major rationale behind the people's votes.
The platform advocated by Mursi while campaigning for the elections was that of the Muslim Brotherhood, and people voted for Mursi in the full awareness that he was the presidential candidate of the Brotherhood. Many people will have voted for Mursi for that reason alone. Fundraising for Mursi's electoral campaign was also done by the Brotherhood and its supporters. Paradoxically, the FJP, among other political forces, pressed hard to delete the amendment proposed by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) regarding the legislative elections law prohibiting independent members from rejoining political parties after they had been elected as non-partisan MPs.
The Brotherhood's decision now to distance itself from its own presidential candidate is unpractical, and it is unthinkable that it will now seek to become part of the opposition to Mursi or that it will abandon its own Renaissance Project, in its own words the outcome of intellectual debate in the association over the last 20 years. Evidently, the Brotherhood, even though one of its leading political figures has been elected as head of state in a fair-and-free election, has become addicted to continuing as an underground movement that needlessly works behind closed doors. What more senior job could move the Brotherhood to become a fully transparent legal entity in order to perform its purported objectives?
When millions have chosen the Brotherhood's nominee in the elections and have endorsed its sacred project, there is a need for the organisation to change its preferred clandestine nature and to play a full part in Egypt's politics and society. The organisation may want to sustain its clandestine modus operandi, which has kept it at arms' length from any supervision by the law or by an independent national regulator. Some have also claimed that it does not want to become "burned out" by day-to-day politics that accompany its direct running of the state in a highly volatile political and social context. At the same time, the organisation may have thought that this manoeuvre would diminish its political accountability.
Herein lies a major issue, since the electoral commitments made by Mursi are those of the Brotherhood, and the latter should be held accountable for their fulfilment during the coming presidential term. In other words, political accountability should be the responsibility of the Brotherhood and its candidate, otherwise there would be no reason to have political parties or associations that nurture, develop and guide their cadres. Political parties sustain their electoral victories through the performance of their representatives in the executive, as well as the legislative, branches of government, and not just through political manoeuvring. Accountability is basic to democracy as it breeds the transfer and sharing of power, and this should be considered by the Brotherhood.
The delegation of accountability is one of the worst mistakes that the management of any given enterprise can make. On the other hand, Mursi is in massive need of the support of his parent organisation, and the latter has the greatest stake in his future success. That Mursi is the president of all Egyptians is axiomatic: this is his basic job description that cannot and should not be eroded by his membership of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ironically, many of the country's political forces have been adamant in their demands that Mursi resign from the FJP and the Brotherhood, though they have also been quite satisfied with their efforts to gain concessions from the organisation.
To achieve its multiple objectives, the Brotherhood has been pursuing the idea of rescinding its formal relationship with Mursi. Obviously, there is no need for such manoeuvres, which will add more uncertainties rather than clear up ambiguities. Furthermore, the association's current endeavours to formally keep a distance from the presidential institution have been quite incredible. For example, in his first few hours after the announcement of the election results Mursi highlighted that he would start work with the Renaissance Project, even as a number of FJP members gave statements about Mursi and plans to end ties with the Brotherhood.
Any move to resign on the part of Mursi from the Brotherhood would be perceived by many as a typical "division of roles", something identified in the way the organisation does things from its management of the various professional syndicates. The Brotherhood dominates most of the syndicates, but it has always done business behind the scenes. Ruling Egypt is more complex than managing the board of a professional syndicate, however, and the Brotherhood should reconsider its steps. Once more, it is Mursi's right to form a team that will implement his electoral platform. Such a team should consist of elements that are fully convinced of the major premises of his platform. There is no time to be wrong about this, and accordingly there is no time for the appeasement of other political forces either, or for pacifying the anxieties of certain groups inside Egypt. Deliverables are what are expected from Mursi and his team.
The Muslim Brotherhood should now change its old paradigms and meet new political realities with their formidable challenges. Political cunning has been a major trait of the Brotherhood and many of its leaders, and there should be no problem living with such a fundamental feature that has long been characteristic of the political culture of the organisation. Yet, there is a need for the currently deliberately ill-defined boundaries between the Brotherhood, the FJP, and the new president to be clearly marked. It cannot be accepted that such ill-defined borders, existing between the Brotherhood and the FJP, now expand to encompass Egypt's new president. The organisation should aim to halt its old secretive style, which has been surpassed by the changing political landscape as well as the organisation's greater visibility. It should work on establishing itself as a formal entity that is transparent and accountable before the whole nation.
The Brotherhood should learn from its past and its historical ebbs and flows. Obviously, it cannot leap from being an outlawed organisation to a legal one easily or in one movement, as has been reflected in the current debate on the verdict of the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving the parliament. As the country's leading political organisation, particularly given its overarching Islamic reference, the Brotherhood has to set an example. Otherwise, it will act like the protagonist of the famous Greek myth of Sisyphus.
According to The Odyssey, Sisyphus was a king who was compelled to roll a stone up a steep hill. When he reached the top, the stone always rolled down again, and Sisyphus was condemned to do this for eternity. In the Greek myth, Sisyphus was predestined to suffer. In the Egyptian political reality, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to think and act differently, lest it and more importantly also Egypt suffer.
The writer is a political analyst.