Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Looking for the back door

The Muslim Brotherhood is exploring new tactics ahead of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, writes Amany Maged

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Al-Ahram Weekly

As expected, the “3 July Uprising” called for by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL), an organisation supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, proved to be an illusion. There were a few feeble demonstrations in some governorates. Before that, some NASL leaders were arrested. The great event fizzled out, barely making a dent on the day.

Meanwhile, several Muslim Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death or hard labour in what is generally referred to as the Qalyoub highway case. Among these were Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, Brotherhood Mufti Abdel-Rahman Al-Barr, and Basem Awda, who earlier served as minister of supply in the Hisham Qandil government.

Some analysts believe that these verdicts are a way to up the pressure on the Brotherhood until it agrees to a reconciliation process without preconditions. The verdicts coincided with an announcement by prominent Islamist thinker Kamal Abul Magd that he had completed a new initiative for reconciliation between the government and the Brotherhood, refusing to reveal details so as not to jeopardise his mediating efforts which began several months ago.

In a press statement, Abul Magd said that the government was in a position of strength while the Brotherhood was in one of weakness. He suggested that this was due in small part to the government’s efficacy and in large part to the Muslim Brotherhood’s failures.

As a result of its dismal performance, the Muslim Brotherhood “counted for nothing,” he said, not just to the government but to the Egyptian people as a whole.

Abul Magd said that “the current climate is such that the authorities can tell the defeated that ‘we came to you in the past with a good initiative. You were arrogant and snubbed it. Now you have to decide what to do.’ When you come up with an initiative you have to read the entire plan,” he said.

He added that he had information to the effect that a number of Muslim Brotherhood members hold the organisation’s Guidance Bureau responsible for everything that has happened to it during the recent period.

Abul Magd said that he would not take his new initiative to Mohamed Ali Bishr, former minister of local development and currently charged with managing the affairs of the Brotherhood. “Bishr has proved unable to influence the group in spite of the fact that the last initiative was a good one and aired under circumstances that were better for the Brotherhood than they are at present,” he said.

Even as the series of Brotherhood trials continues, many Brotherhood youth members are considering possible backdoor routes to ensure their future. The most immediate has been in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. While the Muslim Brotherhood publicly proclaims that the events of 3 July 2013 constituted a “coup” and therefore that it refuses to take part in the political processes, its talk behind the scenes has been different.

There, Brotherhood leaders speak of the possibility of an informal alliance between the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, and other Islamist parties whereby some Brotherhood candidates not well known for their affiliation would be fielded among the candidates of an Islamist coalition.

Nevertheless, if such an alliance or coalition is to take shape, it will probably have to wait until after 4 August, the date that the Supreme Administrative Court has set for issuing its ruling on suits calling for the dissolution of the FJP and other parties affiliated with the NASL.

Political analysts suggest that a new Islamist coalition might be forged and that it might include in its candidate lists unknown individuals from the FJP alongside members of the Strong Egypt Party.

That party’s leader, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who broke away from the Muslim Brotherhood some years ago, has announced that his party will take part in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The elections offer an opportunity to communicate with the people, to convey ideas and programmes, and to take part in shaping social awareness, he said.

The coalition might also include Al-Watan (Nation) Party. Yousri Hamad, the Secretary-General of this Salafist Party, has announced that its central board has also decided to run in the parliamentary elections. Boycotting the elections would serve no end, while the electoral coalition would be more effective in countering the non-Islamist political parties and forces that supported the post-3 July roadmap, he said.

Some believe that the Muslim Brotherhood has deliberately formed a number of small parties, such as the Al-Hadara, Al-Fadila and Al-Asala (Civilisation, Virtue and Authenticity) Parties, so as to have party structures that it can use when needed. Some of these parties have played a part in the creation of the NASL while others are being kept in reserve for other purposes, such as in the parliamentary elections.

Whatever alliances or coalitions arise, observers of the Islamist movements feel certain that the Muslim Brotherhood is searching for some back door in order to return to the political scene. At a time when all other political forces are shying away from the group for various reasons, the Brotherhood, branded as a terrorist organisation, may see backdoor routes as its only alternative.

A number of analysts nevertheless predict the emergence of a new pro-Muslim Brotherhood coalition. They suggest that such a coalition might be headed by the Construction and Development Party, the political wing of the Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya. Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader Aboud Al-Zomor has openly called on the Muslim Brotherhood to enter the parliamentary elections and “to accept the blood money for their dead” — suggesting that it is time for the Brotherhood to come to terms with the current situation.           

 The coalition could be declared publicly and could consist of the pro-Morsi parties, including the Construction and Development Party, Labour, Al-Fadila, Al-Islah (Reform), Al-Tawhid Al-Arabi (Arab Unification), Al-Wasat (Centre) Party, and the Islamic (Islamist) Party. All these parties took part in the parliamentary elections of 2011.

According to sources close to these parties, there have been preliminary talks with the Muslim Brotherhood over ways to include members from the organisation’s “sleeper cells” among the candidates that the coalition would field in the forthcoming elections.

The sources say that the Brotherhood has come to realise that no one will openly ally with it for fear of the political risks connected with associating with an organisation that in official, public and international eyes is seen as a terrorist organisation.

It appears that another coalition is also in the works. Sources close to Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh’s Strong Egypt Party have announced an electoral coalition that could include the Dostour (Constitution) and Adl (Justice) Parties.

Nevertheless, Strong Egypt Party leaders continue to cite objections to certain articles of the parliamentary elections law which has yet to be finalised. They maintain that these provisions open the door to the return of the businessmen and vested interest groups associated with the former Mubarak regime and the National Democratic Party that was dissolved after the 25 January Revolution.

In short, if they are to re-establish any political presence at all after the succession of judicial verdicts against them and their failure to mobilise support, the Muslim Brothers will need to work their way stealthily over, around or under the walls of the official ban and widespread popular hostility.

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