Monday, November 28, 2011

The moment of truth

Boaz Bismuth

Just two weeks ago, the elections in Egypt were considered to be the most predictable elections in the Middle East: the Muslim Brotherhood was sure to be victorious, and it was clear to the military regime that the first parliamentary elections to be held in the post-Mubarak era were not another struggle between an opportunist coalition and the military. In the meantime, a new revolution erupted this month, and Egypt began to understand that democracy, if at all, operates through anarchy and Islam.

Only 10 months ago, Egypt watched as its former President Hosni Mubarak and his regime were toppled. Today Egyptians are already being summoned to vote. Common sense dictates that elections come at the end of the democratic process, not at the beginning. In Egypt, however, there are those who want to hurry. Not the "youth of Tahrir Square," the heroes behind the revolution that took place in January and February. They would not regret it if the recent November demonstrations prompted the delay, or especially, the overthrow of the current military regime. For the Muslim Brotherhood, in contrast, the timing could not be better. They are ready, they are organized, they are even experienced. Recent victories by their "brothers" in Tunisia and Morocco only increase their chances of winning.

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Egypt is going to the voting booths without really know where it is going.

The Muslim Brotherhood has experience, something which the rest of Egypt's political parties are severely lacking. The Brotherhood's greatest achievement took place in the 2005 election, when they won 20 percent of seats in the parliament. This achievement was indeed significant because the group ran on an independent platform in an election in which only a third of parliament seats were up for grabs. But those days were different. That election took place during the Mubarak era and the Brotherhood was perceived by the government as an enemy. Today, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is working as vigorously as possible in every district.

Today, the Brotherhood is far from being discreet. They know the work and understand the role of public relations. They changed their color from green - the color symbolizing Islam, which has had a negative connotation for the West, liberals and the youth of Tahrir Square - to blue and yellow, the colors of the new democratic coalition which various groups have joined. They were even the pyromaniacs who ignited the recent fire at Tahrir Square - mainly on Mohammed Mahmoud Street - when they realized the army had pulled out its claws and decided to seize the state promised to them (following an initiative by the deputy prime minister which allows the army to be above the constitution). The Brotherhood members then turned into firefighters when they realized the elections were in danger of being cancelled, something which could have stripped them of their advantage of experience and preparedness. This time, unlike in January, Egyptians were not able to blame the Brotherhood for being absent from the Square.

The Muslim Brotherhood has two additional advantages: The first is that while the sensitive situation in the country could deter many voters from casting their ballots, the Brotherhood can rely on the strong support of its constituents, who come out in droves to the voting booths. The second is that the Brotherhood is the most organized and only group capable of ensuring a massive number of election observers at the polls.

It is unclear how all of this will play out in Egypt. Revolution, after all, is something that takes years. The army, the Muslim Brotherhood, even the youth of Tahrir Square are all arriving at the voting booths today hurt, battered and scarred.

But there is one individual - Mohammed ElBaradei - who has succeeded quite well in positioning himself as a safe option for both the military and for the Muslim Brotherhood. As soon as his strength grows, if at all, you can trust that the Brotherhood will politically intercept him. Even with a "nuclear weapon."

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