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Counter-revolution or corrective revolution?

Many people attribute the ongoing crisis and the coup against Morsi and his government in Egypt to the Brotherhood's failure in running the state. They also attribute this failure to their lack of political experience in governance. Yet, by taking an objective look at what is going on in Egypt, and in light of the developments witnessed in the Egyptian arena in both political and historical contexts, one can ask those who say that the Brotherhood failed due to their lack of experience in governance: How do they explain the relative success achieved by the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia?


From this question, one can discern that the Brotherhood's failure in Egypt cannot be attributed to their lack of political experience, but to the culture inherited by Arab politicians themselves – those in power and the opposition – which has always put access to power at the forefront rather than the nation itself!

One important factor can be deduced from the Egyptian scene, and that is that the revolutionary political and oppositional power has taken two steps. The first step was to support Mursi in the elections that took place a year ago because they did not have another alternative. It was impossible at that time to regress from revolutionary change in order to stand with remnants of a former regime against a man who came out of the womb of the revolution.

After Morsi's victory, the opposition took the second step, whereby it decided on his failure based on the erroneous belief that his success in running the Egyptian state would lead to its political suicide. This is proven by the fact that most of the political stances it has taken thereafter have all gone in this direction.

The opposition refused any rapprochement or political cooperation with Morsi and it has attempted to block and prevent any steps being taken to establish institutions for the new system. For an example, they refused Morsi's invitation to form a government or to participate in it. Hamdeen Sabahi also immediately rejected the positions of Vice President or Prime Minster after the elections. Some of the opposition's leaders considered themselves deserving of posts greater than that of the Prime Minister and that his rightful place was to become the President of the Republic.

Morsi then erred in his treatment of the opposition as one bloc. He did this by giving a speech that attempted to unify the factions instead of attempting to give convincing arguments to some of the opposition's factions and to build an alliance. It seemed that his politics was either to build a coalition with the opposition in every spectrum or to remove it completely from the coalition.

This strengthened the opposition's position in adopting a strong policy against Morsi and this strongly contributed to the support they received from abroad in its persistence and refusal of any partnership or any political compromise with the system.

The Brotherhood's failure to dismantle the opposition's alliance and build a new alliance with some of its factions may be due to their lack of experience in governance. On the other hand, it could be due to their belief that the Egyptian people were with them and that the opposition's projects lacked the justification to mobilize the people against them.

However, the inherited culture and ideology of Egyptian political factions must be taken into consideration when it comes to its allies and opponents. This ideology is often based on the principle of eradicating the 'other' as opposed to coexisting with him or her. This is clearly evident in the opposition's chants that led to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood's rule and not the President's political agenda or his person, and in their demands for Morsi's departure along with his cabinet. On the other hand, there were also chants accusing the opposition of dishonesty and betrayal.

This political ideology was strongly present in the Egyptian political scene and it formed a solid ground for each faction to solidify their attitudes, beliefs, and views towards the other party.

Historically in Egypt, this relationship between Leftists and Nationalists on one side, and Islamaists on the other is characterized by confrontation. Many of these tensions and malformations can be attributed to past political regimes. While members of the Brotherhood were languishing in the prisons of former political regimes and suffering from their repressive tools, leftists and nationalists were the spoiled darlings of those systems. They pushed them and encouraged them to produce a hostile ideology and exclusionary thought towards the Muslim Brotherhood and their approach.

This is the opposite of what happened in the Tunisian scene. For example, the relationship between Leftists and Nationalists on the one side and Islamists on the other was characterized by harmony and not confrontation, for they were all the victims of exclusion, marginalization and repression in the successive regimes there. All of their leaders were also subject to imprisonment and exile.

The experience of exclusion and persecution, which they fought together, helped them come closer together and it helped them form a common plan and vision as to how their future state would look like and the adoption of general goals that everyone worked towards achieving. In other words, this experience not only helped to strengthen their conviction for tolerance and renounce exclusion of the other, but also in promoting harmony and partnership in building and running a state that would appease them all. Furthermore, remnants of the former regime were not given a chance to interfere with any of the new factions or to form an alliance against the new revolutionary system.

Thus, the fruit of this labor was shared and the elections for the Tunisian Constituent Assembly could not be targeted by plots, not even by the assassination of Chokri Belead who is considered to be one of the strongest leaders of the alliance.

What happened in Egypt was the opposite. There is no doubt that the decision to depose President Mursi will leave huge rift among yesterday's revolutionary factions that will be difficult if not impossible to repair. This rift would benefit the remnants of the former regime, which will benefit from the dispute between the two factions and see it as an opportunity to rearrange their ranks. If we take into consideration that they represent half of the Egyptian people, as it is highlighted by the recent elections and revolution, they can monopolize any political process in the future.

I hope that this characterization of the Egyptian scene has been objective to a certain extent; however, it remains a characterization though which we can describe the current problematic danger. Is it possible to describe what is happening in Egypt as a "counter-revolution and a coup" or "corrective revolution"?

If Egyptians are able to formulate a new agreement that will regulate their political lives and achieve partnership and justice and ensures the circulation of power then it is without a doubt a corrective revolution. However, if things lead to strengthening the influence of the military and handing them the reins to no end, then there is no doubt that what is going on in Egypt is a counter-revolution.

I can assure you that in the first case, the Egyptians have spared themselves the phases that Europe experiences in one year and that they are accelerating the pace towards a true and genuine democratic transformation. If we look back on the history of European revolutions, we will find that some of them took a decade and others two decades or more to reform.

In the second case, this means that the Egyptians have gone back to square one and in that we will have to mourn with them both revolutionary change and democratization as a whole.

This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared on Al Jazeera net on 5 July, 2013

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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