Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1183, (6 - 12 February 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Imploding support

The pro-Morsi alliance is on the brink of collapse, writes Amany Maged

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Deposed president Mohamed Morsi is being tried on numerous counts. The most recent hearing — held on 4 February — concerned his alleged involvement in the murder of demonstrators during protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government in front of the Ittihadiya Palace in December 2012.

Support for Morsi from Muslim Brotherhood members is dwindling. The number of pro-Morsi demonstrators before the court premises have fallen. Even Morsi seems aware that claiming to be Egypt’s legitimate president is no longer a winning card in his hand. He has engaged Mohamed Selim Al-Awwa, who ran against him in the 2012 presidential elections, to defend him though, in the glassed-in defendants’ dock, he turned his face away from the judges’ bench.

Not only was the crowd outside the courtroom thin but numbers of those attending rallies called by the so-called National Alliance to Support Legitimacy have dwindled. The alliance, which consists of the Muslim Brotherhood and some other Islamist parties, issued numerous protest calls ahead of the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution as well as a manifesto calling for an 18-day campaign to “overthrow the coup”. The campaign was supposed to begin on 24 January.

The alliance called for demonstrations to be held last Saturday “in all corners of the country and all squares of the revolution” to support the deposed president and to commemorate the second anniversary of the Port Said football stadium massacre. It then called for demonstrations the following day — Sunday — to mark the third anniversary of the “Battle of the Camel”, a watershed event in the 25 January Revolution. Both calls were largely ignored.

As the size and frequency of pro-Morsi demonstrations has declined violent incidents have risen. Meanwhile, the alliance is showing signs of fissure. Recent leaks have revealed disputes within its ranks, focussed mainly on rumours to the effect that former Chief of Staff General Sami Anan intended to field himself in the presidential elections. The alliance split in two over the issue, with one camp refusing to support Anan or even discuss his possible candidacy in alliance meetings. Anan has a military background and it is important to back a civilian candidate, they argued. The opposing camp argued that Anan would be able to rival the likely candidacy of Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

According to one alliance leader reports that it planned to support Anan are “unfounded rumours” being circulated by supporters of one or another potential presidential candidate. The purpose of these rumours, he said, is to sow confusion in the ranks of the alliance and to disseminate the impression that it has given up hope of Morsi being reinstated and was now looking for an alternative to pit against Al-Sisi. “The alliance will not support Anan or any other military candidate,” the source said, adding that the alliance adheres to the principle that the president must be a civilian and that it will continue to call for demonstrations “as this is the only card it has”.

The contention over a rumoured Anan candidacy is not the only dispute to shake the unity of the alliance. In the opinion of one expert from the independent think tank the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, the alliance is on the verge of collapse. This is a result of the government’s recent move to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, he said. Other parties and movements within the alliance are trying to avoid having to share the costs of this designation with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ahmed Ban, an expert on Islamist movements, argues that one of the main causes of the alliance’s imminent collapse is the flight abroad of leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood and groups like Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and Jihad. He believes the recent branding of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation delivered a painful blow to the group, especially as regards to its manoeuvrability abroad. It has given the Egyptian government greater scope to confront Muslim Brothers operating abroad and manipulating events in Egypt from a safe distance. That scope is especially large in countries with which Egypt has security cooperation agreements.

Another “explosion” that sent shockwaves through the alliance came in the form of revelations by the Salafist Preacher Sheikh Mohamed Hassaan with regard to efforts on the part of a number of religious leaders to mediate between the Muslim Brotherhood and the alliance and Egyptian authorities at the time of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares. Sheikh Hassaan’s statements triggered a wave of fury and angry accusations within the alliance. Most of the current alliance members were not active members at the time of the sit-ins and those from the Muslim Brotherhood had only been second-tier members in the organisation at the time, according to sources from the alliance. In addition, the alliance’s current leaders, at present, reject any negotiations or political dialogue with the government.

According to Ban the alliance was already stung by its failure to capitalise on the anniversary of the 25 January Revolution when Sheikh Hassaan’s revelations exposed the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood leadership was willing to sacrifice the lives of its supporters, especially among the young, during the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins.

According to one alliance leader, Sheikh Hassaan tried to contact alliance and Muslim Brotherhood leaders but negotiations were broken off with no reasons given by either Muslim Brotherhood leaders or government authorities. The source added he was surprised that the sheikh had made these statements now, when they could do most damage to the alliance. Why, he asked, did he not speak out on this subject during the preceding five months? But the damage, as the source himself acknowledges, has been done. The alliance has begun to collapse from within and its various groups are reassessing their priorities, revising their calculations and preparing, perhaps, to once again dispatch their younger elements as fodder.

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