Wednesday, November 30, 2005
That’s a simple question yet it has many interconnected answers. Regardless of whether there was some sort of a deal between the MB and the regime or not, there are several reasons for the surprising performance of the MB. These reasons are not mutually exclusive from one another.
1. The drastic failure of the National Democratic Party (Mubarak’s party) in meeting just the basic needs of Egyptians. The NDP failed in all sectors: health, transportation, infrastructure, education, you name it. The socioeconomic situation of the people is getting worse and it seems that the NDP, as represented by the government, simply can’t do a thing about it. They haven’t even done any effort to do a thing about it. People are angry at the government and they conveyed their anger by choosing the NDP’s nemesis: the MB
2. The NDP did nothing in rejuvenating itself and serving the people instead of the regime and its group of multimillionaire cronies. The strife between the new guard, represented by Gamal Mubarak’s ilk, and the old guard has crippled the party and prevented it from presenting a new face to the public during these elections. If the NDP wants to improve its relation with the people, it should understand that Egyptians are not slaves working in the NDP plantations. I am hoping that the MB shock will force the NDP to wake up and start serving the people.
3. The MB is very organized and very well financed (thanks to foreign donors). Their network of social services in poor areas filled the vacuum left by the state and earned them credibility and appreciation from many poor voters. This phenomena doesn’t only exist in Egypt but across the Arab world as well.
4. The MB have the luxury of not having ruled the country before. They can present themselves to the Egyptian public and the international community as the champions of human rights and democracy simply because they have never reached power in Egypt. In other words, they have not been tested.
In the 70s, Khomenie was the champion of all human rights organizations, the BBC, and leftist French philosophers. He talked about democracy, equality and human rights. I think I don’t need to tell you about what happened when he took over Iran.
5. As a result of socioeconomic pressures and the crushing of the middle class, this strata of the society started to get more and more religious. Unemployed young Egyptians who don’t see a bright future ahead of them tend to either spend their time in a café or in a mosque. Many of them get high on hash or on Karl Marx’s opium. Iran is our opposite. It’s youth who are also mired in unemployment and oppression are only addicted to opium. They can’t escape towards religion because religion is ruling them and it’s not doing a good job there. Therefore, as a result of the wave of religiosity that invaded Egypt in the past 20-30 years, the MB became the answer to many voters who think that religion is the answer to Egypt’s ills.
6. The MB are the only representatives of political Islam in Egyptian politics. As a results of the failure of the secular regime, political Islam became the most powerful force in our politics.
In addition to that, what made matters worse is that since they are now the only representatives of political Islam, they eventually became the representatives of Islam itself. The official media calls them the “religious wave” and they are the only entity calling for Islamic law. I have talked to several religious friends whom I know would hate the MB to take over Egypt yet they were so careful not to criticize or attack the MB. These people’s minds made the extremely dangerous association or link between Islam as a religion and the MB as a political organization.
7. The other legal opposition parties, who are mostly secular in nature, lacked the organizational skills and the financial resources of the NDP and the MB. These parties are like dead corpses thrown across Egypt’s political arena. They are lifeless, broke, with no popular appeal. As a result, they failed to become an alternative to the NDP and the MB.
In addition, our dictatorship was keen on suppressing those secular entities. The regime knows very well that the international community, especially the US, is yearning for a secular opposition in Egypt that can one day become an alternative to the Mubarak regime. It is so sad that a main reason for the rise of the Islamists is the government itself. For the past 50 years, the government has suppressed all forms of political discourse and activity, yet they naturally failed to close down thousands of mosques across the country. Now, as a result of suppressing the secular voice, we are left to choose between the state and the mosque.
Coming up next:
What must be done now?