The second wave of the Egyptian revolution on 30 June 2013 shattered a widespread illusion on the Egyptian street and among political elite circles that, following the 25 January revolution in 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice party were capable of dominating the scene after long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.
The Brotherhood were thought of as an extension of the Egyptian revolution, despite their eleventh-hour participation when it was all but certain that Mubarak would step down. Large segments of society and some members of the social elite held the belief that the group was the most organised in the political arena, due to its abundance of human resources and materials. Most importantly, in their statements the group’s leaders kept on reassuring people, from 25 January 2011 until the presidential runoff in 2012, that they would not stand in the way of establishing a democratic, civil and pluralistic system that allows the participation of all political currents in building the future Egypt.
At that time, arguments that were put forward supporting that belief were tenuous for those who knew the group inside out. Yet, the image of the party in the public eye as the most oppressed throughout Mubarak’s rule — as well as some people’s conviction that it is the living example of John Stuart Mill’s concept that “public interest is indivisible” — made voting in favour of the group’s candidate Mohamed Morsi seem to be in the public interest compared to choosing Ahmed Shafik; the last tributary of Mubarak’s regime.
However, the most unlikely gnawing doubts were realised, and Egypt went down a bumpy road throughout the year the party was in power. Soon, they turned a blind eye to “Vermont” pledges given to civil powers before the presidential runoff between Morsi and Shafik, and recanted its binding conditions.
Egypt went along a cloudy winding path with its policy framed around courting its allies at times, and smearing opponents at others, not to mention handing over the state institutions’ responsibilities to the Brotherhood’s leaders. But, the most flagrant example, then, was nationalising Egypt’s foreign policy and restricting its strategic allies to pro-Brotherhood governments such as Ankara, Doha and Tunis.
The group’s serious problem was clearly manifested in its vigorous pursuit of controlling the state’s sensitive nerves and fitting the political scene to its ambitions. For instance, Morsi employed his presidential powers to totally dominate the state by excluding his opponents from the political process and issuing self-serving rules and constitutional amendments, rules that worked towards him realising the concept of the superman that was introduced by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Subsequently, the group took advantage of the constitutional declaration, which basically declared Morsi above reproach, announced the removal of the commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces Hussein Tantawi and the Chief of Staff from office, and found justification for despotism as a pretext for meeting the nation’s aspirations.
The MB then added fuel to the fire by making even more mistakes. As a way of rewarding its allies, the MB appointed a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, a group previously known for committing terrorist acts, as governor of Luxor.
Muslim Brothers beat an anti-Morsi protester in Tahrir Square
The group then clashed with the rest of the state’s institutions, particularly when it tried to usurp the judiciary’s power and give the Justice Ministry a bigger role than the one assigned to the Supreme Judicial Council. The group also tried to restrict the country’s media, as it considered it a stumbling block hindering its ambitions, so it accused several media outlets of corruption and regressing the revolution’s gains.
The policies of the group during the year-long rule played an unmistakable role in deepening the state of political and social polarisation in the country, such as when it engaged in the provocative lashing out against Christian Copts by MB leaders and Salafist sheikhs. For instance, the head of the MB’s political wing Mohamed Al-Beltagi said that those who were demonstrating against Morsi’s constitutional declaration were all Copts.
When the anti-Morsi protests erupted on 30 June 2013, it hardly came as a surprise to most Egyptians. The electoral mandate given to Morsi receded as his popularity waned and the gap between the Muslim Brotherhood, the Strong Egypt Party and the Salafist Nour Party got wider.
On the whole, the year the MB ruled was characterised almost entirely by the group attempting to stamp out their political rivals. Instead of seeking to institute policies to combat the multitude of problems Egypt was facing, as was expected by most Egyptians, the MB focussed on trying to secure their hold on power and to reshape the country’s landscape to fit their Islamist ideology.