July 4, 2012

Why the brotherhood hasn't lost anything

Many people who have a special interest in seeing the Muslim Brotherhood fail are taking clues from the various mistakes of the Ikhwan as being a sign of a fall to come. They are interpreting the results of the first round of presidential elections (compared to those of the parliamentary elections) as a clear sign of how much ground the MB have lost since January 25th. Many would like to believe that all the Brotherhood mistakes, their lies and their cheating over the past year and a half are exposing them and have taken a big toll on their popularity in the streets as well as with politicians and activists. That might be true but it has not made them any weaker.

First of all, in consideration of where the MB were before January 25th, they have come a long way. From being an illegal organization, they are now perceived – both locally and internationally - as the only organized political power capable of filling the vacuum that was left by the fall of Mubarak. They now have formal offices all over the country, access to media, contact with the various international powers and definitely a major say in what happens in Egypt, even with the SCAF in full or partial control. That's why, everything considered, they are now in a much better position compared to a year and half ago.

Second, they have a huge and obedient follower base (some people put it as high as a million "brother") and lots of funds (that get replenished monthly from members' contributions). Mistakes might cost them a lot of money but they are able to dedicate significant resources to mend such cracks. This access to resources is unparalleled by any organized power in Egypt except for the army.

Third, they might have lost the parliament but they still managed to get the presidency. Morsi could end-up failing miserably as a president, however, who said that they were seeking immediate power? The presence of one of their own in the highest executive position gives them the chance to plant their own people in every corner of the government, giving them the sort of grassroots control they're so crazy about. Especially, when they start penetrating critical government organizations such as media, municipalities and the social welfare ministries, which is their key strategy in rallying voters. Their control on the lower level of the government gives them as much power – if not more – as being at the top of the pyramid. It will be a matter of time until they are able to grip the whole government and operate this machine to serve their interests. Moreover, in the constitution they are writing (almost entirely alone, save the few clauses the SCAF had asked for), they will transfer a lot of the president's powers to the parliament and other organizations in the government. If Morsi fails, it will not matter to them, they will not seek another presidency and will continue to run the country from those other organizations that have gained those powers.

Fourth, their coming to power creates a snowball effect. Many people will join their circles and support them in order to benefit from their access, this will make them gain more power and make them more appealing for even more people and so on and so forth. Businessmen will seek their partnership, journalists will flatter them, and so on.. It's very similar to what happened with the NDP; many joined it not because they believed in what it stood for but rather to benefit from its network of interests.

Fifth, until today, there are no other viable political alternatives that have emerged. Liberals and leftists could go on hating the MB as much as they like but the truth of the matter is that these political parties/movements have no presence on the ground and lack the resources needed to compete with the Brotherhood. Moreover, the more power the Ikhwan amasses the fiercer they will become in oppressing any opposition and kill any threat in its inception phase. They will use the media, buying off politicians, bribery, loyal judges and eventually the police to oppress; a very similar model to Mubarak, maybe not as bloody in the beginning but they definitely carry an identical mentality.

You have to give it to the Brotherhood, they are persistent and they have enough resources to afford making that many mistakes and still get away with it. They might be slow learner but again they have more than enough money to pay for their faults. They are long term planners and are seeking complete dominance of this country. In the process they might have to shed a lot of their ideology and seek compromises, they might turn into just another political party with the Islamic reference becoming nowhere to be seen except in their literature. However, that will not change the fact that they will not stop before having complete control of this country.

The only way that the Brotherhood "might" fail is if it cannot restructure itself internally. The organization right now is extremely opaque, the top level positions in the MB are restricted to a Brotherhood "elite" that pretty much revolves around Khairat El Shater and a couple of other key figures, who distribute the positions to people they "trust" rather than those who are capable. Being run like a family business means it will suffer the same fate: incompetence on the medium and long term and discontent from the middle ranks who will realize that they have no room to grow. Additionally, the lack of transparency with regards to the MB's finances will eventually cause cracks in the organization. Now that the Brotherhood is coming to light, the hundreds of millions of pounds that run every year uncontrolled and unmonitored will eventually raise questions on what El Shater and Co are doing with this money. If and how the MB might restructure itself will determine if it will be able to carry on with its plans or not. But that is something neither the liberals nor the leftists have any control over.

The MB have lost nothing in the past year and a half. Au contraire, they have gained a lot and they're braced to take control of this country. In the absence of any organized political and social opposition that will ensure that a transparent and fair political system is put in place, the MB will dominate this country within the coming 10 years. Their real failure will come probably 30 years from now when people decide to rise again against them, for pretty much the same reasons why they did it with Mubarak; because monopolizing power is the surest way to fail.


  1. Thanks for the analysis. Bleak, without being propagandist. Any chance they become a benevolent dictator-machine?

    1. Benevolent Dictatorship is a myth.. it doesn't exist.. It sometimes happens that there is one good criminal but not the next.. Any authoritarian regime is bound to turn oppressive at some stage..
      On the other hand, I have given a very bleak view but my argument holds a lot of loopholes and it's not factoring in a whole lot of variables that could change things tremendously. The reason why I put such a dark scenario is to make people realize that if proper resistance is not put in place, the MB will take over completely. I wanted seculars to snap out of their fantasy that the MB are going to shoot themselves in the foot and that the Egyptian population will come and throw themselves at their feet begging them to run the country. It won't happen like that.

  2. Excellent analysis style. Three comments (long am afraid) though:
    1. Your perception of the Muslim Brotherhood as an integrated and stable organization is too optimist considering reality a lot of their leaders already left the organization even before grabing any power. And I am not mentioning the struggle between generations inside the brotherhood, that will make MB implode due to waves desertion of MB youth . Another factor the position of women, if you followed what MB women did say to the then president candidate Morsi, in one of the election meetings you will understand that the erosion is already happening from within
    2. You did not take into consideration changes occurring at the Egyptian political landscape. You have a lot of political groups and parties not yet effective but will be a force to be accounted for in near future. Results of the 1st phase of the presidential election is a proof of this theory. The start of a real revolution did happen, and Egyptian will not accept anybody at his face value no more.
    3.The strong reversal of army position against MB during the last 3 month is a factor you did not take into consideration. I may add that nearly half of voters went against MB candidate. It has to be accounted for considering that if it was 12 month ago probably Morsy/MB would have won by an absolute majority like the famous Yes of the constitutional amendments in March 19, 2011

    In all case I am not saying that everything will be fine, of course liberal forces need rallying the most important block of the population that has no political affiliation and are the key of our future: Kanaba party*

    *Kanaba party: the "couch" party or the majority of Egyptian citizens who consider politics is limited following talk shows, and lamenting on social medias but at the end are the ppl that will go to vote.

    1. I realize of course that there are many holes in my analysis. That I'm assuming that all "secular" forces are just going to sit and watch and that the army will not step in at some stage. However, I chose to put it this way to alert everybody. Many seculars are sitting waiting for the MB to fail and for Egyptians to come running to them. It's not going to happen this way. Unless we start working together and building an alternative it is not going to happen.

      Regarding your points:
      1. The MB are still very stable. The few people who left will not impact their core. Their members are brainwashed and follow them blindly. The cracks might show in the medium and long term but not any time soon.

      2. The powers on the ground are very slow still and I don't really believe that any of the players that are there today has a future. If there is anything that will come out it will not be from the current scene. On the other hand, people (kanaba party) will be willing to accept anyone if security and economy are doing OK. Even, if they didn't like, it will take a long time for them to revolt because by definition they're called Kanaba :))

      3. I believe that there was a change in patterns but that change can be reversed in no time, especially if the MB have the government, the media and the money. So, this loss is not permanent. Just like people turned pro-Mubarak after his speech on Feb 1st, if the camel battle hadn't happened we would have still had him as president.

  3. Hence I believe that the liberals & leftists parties should start a better, stronger communications with the SCAF.
    that's what the MB are always doing and they get what they want, if the other side started a proper coalition and opened a channel with the army it will be in the generals' favor & best interest to support rather than being allied with the MB
    the down with military rule is unfortunately not the way to go, MB are way smarter in that and the SCAF got no other choice than allying with them as the liberals are too split to have a real weight on the ground & not accepting to get the support of the army
    politics is a whore, they cant be always genuine & sincere!
    they have to know how to compromise & when they got obliged to compromise they chose to support the MB rather than the army which was in my opinion purely idiotic!

    1. I agree with you.. But for liberals to be able to negotiate with anyone, whether the army or the MB, they have to have some critical mass. This has not happened yet and unless it happens soon, it will get more difficult by the day for them to do it in the future.

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  5. This is the first - and probably the only - realistic analysis of the political situation in Egypt that I have read to date. It is truly bewildering how the general consensus amongst the virtual activists and the non-islamists that either the army or some other powerful entity will magically unravel all of the opportunistic progress the MB have made in the past 17 months. If only they can see that while they were feverishly whining all these months, the MB has managed to lay down the building blocks to the regime they have long dreamed of.

    You say there are loopholes and other factors you have not included, but whatever resistance that might put forth, it would be momentary and only temporarily deter the MB from achieving their goal; it is far too late in the game to create a force that will have enough momentum to truly stop that train in its tracks.

    What genuinely upsets me is that in the past 17 months, I have repeatedly attempted to get family, friends, and colleagues to be politically active outside the confinement of Facebook and Twitter and I was met with such a state of apathy and surprisingly even aggression. Egyptians might be a lot of good things but the truth is that the majority are not proactive and never will be. Just like you said, it's only a matter of time before the MB manage to completely infiltrate the media, police, and army. Egypt as we know it is slowly disappearing and it is truly scary to imagine what the future holds for us.

    I apologise for this depressing rant but I thought I'd thank you for this post. It is beautifully written.