Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

MB turns into society’s ‘shadow-self’

Physical confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood may have been sporadic through the course of the referendum but political rejection of the group was everywhere, Dina Ezzat reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Nationwide demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood to disrupt the referendum on the constitution failed to materialise though there were some reports of men — allegedly Muslim Brothers — attacking voters as they queued outside polling stations.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag, four people were killed after being shot while they were on their way to vote.

Governors and security officials stressed throughout the early hours of the poll that security measures were in place to protect voters and polling stations. The Ministry of Interior press office was quick to respond to what it said were “Muslim Brotherhood rumours about security threats” that seek to deter voters from going to the poll.

“If you look at the big picture we defied them. We defied them hard. They failed to assemble the large nationwide demonstrations that they had promised and they failed to prevent people from going to the polling stations to join the vote,” said a government official. “We did despite their attempts to circulate counterfeited versions of the constitution and to claim that the constitution allows the violation of Islamic Sharia.”

The official added that a 20 million turnout was anticipated over the two day vote. Seventeen million voted in the 2013 referendum over the constitution drafted under Mohamed Morsi. He also predicted an 80 per cent approval rate.

Such figures are being touted by the authorities not only as evidence of support for the new constitution but as signalling a comprehensive public rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“No I haven’t read the text of the constitution but I am going to vote yes because I want the Muslim Brotherhood to know that the people are against them,” said Fatemah Mahmoud, a retired civil servant, as she went to vote in Heliopolis.

Mahmoud voted for Mohamed Morsi in the second round of the presidential elections in 2012. “But he took the country down so fast. I cannot bear to think where he would have taken us if he’d stayed in office. Today I want a new page and I want a stable country where I can live the remainder of my years in peace.”

Similar sentiments could be heard from many queuing to vote across Egypt.

“People really resent the Muslim Brotherhood. They are making it clear, and those who support the Brotherhood are staying in their houses. They are unable to face the crowds,” said Nabil Abdel-Wahab from Tanta.

“Today we finalised our divorce with the Muslim Brotherhood,” claimed Lydia Nader, a banker on her way home from voting in Mohandessin. “Since the ouster of Morsi it was just a separation. Now it’s official.”

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly concede they failed to mobilise significant numbers against the constitution. They also acknowledge a much larger turnout than they had expected as the referendum turned into the largest show of anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment since the 30 June demonstrations that paved the way for Morsi’s ouster.

“But this will not last forever,” says one. “It is a result of two things: the brutal security campaign which has seen our leaders and members arrested and imprisoned for no reason, and the aggressive and poisonous media campaign. But there will come a point when the public begins to recognise that the new regime is a re-incarnation of the corrupt Mubarak regime that people turned against in the 25 January Revolution.”

Muslim Brotherhood members say they will stand their ground.

“We know that the days ahead will bring more roundups. The coup authorities are already executing us but we will not give up. We will be in the streets and continue to rally as much as we can to remind people that they are falling prey to a masked version of the Mubarak regime,” said another member.

But the rallies are getting smaller and smaller. And in truth there is little the Muslim Brotherhood can do but cross its fingers and hope that the new political process will fail.

As it became clear on the first day of the referendum that the turnout would be high the Muslim Brotherhood found itself “with no choice but to succumb to the repression they are being subjected to, not just in the strict security sense but also in a public sense”, says Hanaa Ebeid, an expert in political psychology.

“They will be further repressed in the wake of the euphoria that will follow the victory which the ruling authorities will claim. In the run up to the presidential elections they are likely to evolve into the unwanted part of the society, a kind of shadow-self.”

But what is repressed, Ebeid stresses, does not disappear. “It does not go away. It just goes underground and nags the super-self. It stays there waiting for the super-self to weaken before it tries to re-emerge. It does not have to re-emerge in the same form but it inevitably re-emerges.”

Ebeid does not expect the Muslim Brotherhood to make a comeback anytime soon. “They are promising to be present in the street on the third anniversary of the 2011 revolution but the chances they will be rejected once again are very high.” Nor are they going to be able to play much of a role in the presidential elections most analysts expect to be held in the spring. The earliest possible comeback, says Ebeid, will be around parliamentary elections expected in summer, a year from their ouster from power.

“By then the super-self may have weakened and the shadow-self could try to re-manifest itself — most likely in an unpleasant way, or at the very least angry, way.”

A high turnout for the referendum, says lawyer and human rights activists Mahmoud Kandil, will inevitably be seen as “a second authorisation from the people to the army and the police to squash the Muslim Brotherhood”.

“This could lead to violations on an even more disturbing scale, provoking an angry response by the Muslim Brotherhood, whether organised and ordered by its highly dysfunctional command or simply because of the furious reactions of individuals.”

To make things worse for the Muslim Brotherhood, says Kandil, this is happening at a time when attempts by the group to rebuild bridges with other political forces opposed to the ruling authorities have all failed. “Even those who sympathise with the humanitarian crisis the Muslim Brotherhood have faced are not willing to forgive what it did when it was in office.”

It is a situation, Ebeid warns, that could see members of the group “reject everything and everyone who is not with them”.

“We could see a new phase of excessive radicalisation within its ranks,” she says.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, argues political commentator Seif Nasrawi, Egypt has already seen the fall of the two political groups that dominated the last decade. The National Democratic Party, an umbrella for the vested interests of the Mubarak-era, fell in 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood, seen as the obvious alternative to the Mubarak regime, fell less than three years later.

Neither is completely gone, and the Muslim Brotherhood is in a much worse situation than the National Democratic Party, but “at the end of the day there is a considerable political vacuum” waiting to be filled.

It is too early to tell whether the defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood will climax in the revival of a new version of the National Democratic Party (NDP), says Nasrawi, or whether the political forces that “actually made the 25 January Revolution” before the Muslim Brotherhood decided to join will be able to give the revolution “that defeated the NDP and later helped defeat the MB” a new lease of life.

It is only the second scenario, Nasrawi suggests, that is capable of preventing the return of the Brotherhood to the political scene.

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