It was widely reported in Cairo that members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) who have been instructed by the organization to run in the future Parliamentary elections are seeking the legal cover of “Misr Alqawia” (Egypt the Strong) party (MA). Due to a court ruling that bans the organization, the MB may not be able to run in the next elections.
According to Cairo reports, negotiations between Dr Abdul Monaim Abo Alfoutoh, the leader of the MA party and Mohammed Aly Beshr, a member in the MB politburo (Maktab Al Ershad – The Bureau of Guidance) are in an advanced phase. Abo Alfoutoh himself was a member of the MB, but had left the organization due to ideological and political differences with the now-imprisoned MB strongman Khayrat Al Shatter. (Abo Alfoutoh does not ascribe to Sayed Quteb’s totalitarian doctrine of “Governance is God’s”. Quteb was a prominent theoretician who was hanged in the 1960’s).
Abo Alfoutoh, a reformist Islamist, denies the reports. But rumors have persisted, especially after he delayed a meeting with a number of the MA party’s members who wanted to question him about the reports of his talks with the MB. Some of his own MA rank-and-file who oppose such a move told MEB that they detected several signs of the talks between Abo Alfoutoh and Dr. Beshr.
But the major question is not whether Abo Alfoutah will give the MB legal cover. It is to what extent the court ruling that bans the MB makes any sense. Although the MB was banned for almost 58 years out of the last 60, it managed to reach the highest office in Egypt and win a majority in the parliament in the relatively free election of 2012.
The real issue is whether the MB can regain part of its previous popularity, and the parliamentary elections will be an early test. MEB’s assessment is that if the elections were to be held today, the MB would probably get between 15 and 25% of the seats of the new Parliament.
This percentage is subject to change based on several factors. The rush and impatience of the Mubarak lieutenants to return to the surface has provoked quite a large segment of the Egyptian population. In addition, the pressure created by low intensity terrorist acts committed by some Islamists is used by the security forces to dodge any call for real reform of the police forces. But above all, the economic situation totally fails to meet the elevated expectations of the poorer segments of Egyptian people, particularly after they toppled two presidents in a row.
These factors will not only determine the number of seats that the MB will get in the next elections a few months down the road, but will also indicate whether the MB can stage an impressive comeback. That would prove that they do not need the Abo Alfoutoh cover.
The MB’s strict internal rejection of “self-criticism” reflects the fact that the current imprisonment of its prominent leaders and self-exile of the rest is not an environment conducive to debate. But on the other hand, the rigid organizational structure of the group causes dissent and splits among the urban middle class members who are still able to think critically about the political performance of the organization. This element of critical thinking within the MB is a key point in turning the organization away from the Quebist dominance of the Maktab Al Ershad. In now-ongoing contacts between Egypt’s new regime and the MB, the Egyptian authorities have correctly made this particular point a main topic of the secret negotiations taking place in Cairo with some assistance from the EU’s Catherine Ashton.