The International Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organization will form an Egyptian government in exile sometime in late January, and claim that it is the only legitimate government in Egypt. Once declared, the organization will lead campaign to gain international recognition.
The determining factor will remain the internal situation in Egypt. So far, the Egyptian public is standing firmly behind General Abdul Fatah Al Sisi, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign, while unrelenting, is gaining little support. In fact, were it not for the shortcomings of the current government and the dire objective situation in the country, the Brotherhood protests would die slowly.
In the recent elections of the medical doctors union for example, the MBs were defeated for the first time in decades. Similar results are expected in other trade union elections. Why then, with shrinking outward support, do the MBs insist on continuing to push their supporters to confront the new regime?
The answer is simple. They bet on reproducing the events of January 25th 2011 when extreme police brutality and decades-old accumulated perception of the regime as corrupt and irresponsible, led to the eruption of the so-called Egyptian revolution. The MBs are reckoning that the unpopular attitude toward the Egyptian police along with the dire economic situation can again move large masses of the Egyptian population to take the protests as far as they can go.
The Brotherhood is correct that both problems exist and do not have a simple solution. In a recent conversation, a high ranking police official dismissed out of hand my observation about his forces’ brutality, and countered with two explanations. First, was that the police forces were confronting a “terrorist” organization, and second, that people like to scapegoat the Egyptian police forces and blame them for anything that goes wrong. He was wrong on both accounts.
Police brutality is a reality that almost all Egyptians know. And when the police use excessive force against protestors in the street, the ordinary Egyptian almost spontaneously sides with the protestors. That instinct in the population could lead to breaking the current isolation of the MBs.
In addition, the opponents of the MB cannot count on the organization ever admitting that it made mistakes during the one year rule of Muhammed Mursi. Any admission of that sort would lead to questioning the leadership, and that will not be allowed under any circumstances right now with most of the leadership of the Egyptian MB in prison. MB leaders will continue to demand loyalty with the explanations like, “not now when we are under attack,” or “it was the betrayal of Al Sisi, not our mistakes.” However, it was precisely that rigidity that led to the huge popular demonstrations of the 30th of June that ended with the toppling of Mursi.
On the economic front the situation is more complicated. For example, at the last summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the question of “investing” additional tens of billions of dollars to support the new regime in Cairo consumed quite a bit of the Gulf leaders’ time. The question was: is it really safe to pour this amount of money in Egypt? The answer was a mixed bag, but the conclusion was that if the financial backing is dropped, the consequences will be extremely negative.
Instead, the decision should have been, “Yes, but….”
When a group of UAE investors decided to back Egypt through building a chain of socially oriented projects that utilize a great deal of labor and provide jobs, the investors were received coldly by the notorious Egyptian bureaucracy and soon confronted the unyielding web of regulations and laws that make investment almost impossible, unless corrupt practices are applied.
The Gulf countries that largely overcame such difficulties a while ago in their own economies, should have started with recognizing the need of a general reform in the Egyptian bureaucracy and its regulations before discussing any substantial investment. This would not only protect their investments, but would also help Egypt and further pull the rug out from under the MBs.