As a socially liberal person, my biggest fear was that the Muslim Brotherhood would succeed in gaining popularity on the ground which they will later on use as a basis to limit freedoms and abolish democracy. I thought that they would in the first 100 days take a number of populous decisions designed only to increase their approval and give them the necessary grounds. After those first 3 months, I realized that the MB were somewhere else altogether. It became obvious to me that Morsi put little or no weight on his popularity. The MB were only interested in gaining control of the state, even at the expense of their approval ratings. It is pretty much the same strategy they’ve always used, a series of quick actions without a global plan. They move from stage to the next and then improvise. So far, it seems to have worked for them but can they sustain this strategy for long?
Many people would like to think that the MB will eventually crash. But I think that there might be another scenario.The first scenario, which predicts that MB will fall in the near future, is based on the following assumptions:
- That the MB have proven – beyond a doubt – that they do not have the technical abilities nor the vision to solve the pressing problems of the country. Even, if at some stage they develop the will to do something for the country; it is obvious that they do not know how. Eventually, the economic problems are going to catch up with them and this will lead to an explosion of some sort. Nobody knows what this explosion might look like but still many are expecting another wave of unrest (much bigger than what we are seeing now).
- The Muslim Brotherhood have over the past year and a half made enemies with all the different powers in the society, starting from the judiciary, to the media, the Azhar, the Christians, the opposition, the revolutionaries, the army, the intelligence; and even within government institutions the way they are forcing their people upon those agencies is creating a lot of resistance. Moreover, they have – to a large extent – proven to the international community that they are neither democratic nor do they have the ability to curb the chaos that the country is going through. If anything, the unrest has increased. Opening so many fronts has only resulted in the whole world (almost literarily) joining forces against them. This will make it near impossible for them to pull anything together. The resistance is /will be too high. Even the few entities that are still quasi neutral towards Ikhwan (like the Salafis and the Police) are not willing to fight on their behalf and will at best just keep out of their battles.
- Mubarak left such a disaster of a government that even if the MB had the will and did not have such resistance from the various segments of the society, it will still be almost impossible to get anything done with the existing bureaucracy.
- The most commonly used theory is a coup d’état. The theories of a coup vary a lot. The more radical versions talk about a classical coup of the army going down to the streets and removing Morsi by force, taking control of the government and either staying for a few years in power or trying to go straight into elections, depending on how much they’ve learned from the previous uprising. The less extreme version talks about back room dealings that result in Morsi calling for early presidential elections. The assumption here is that the army is already getting tired with the MB because they are a) incapable of leading the country to safety and b) they are becoming a national security threat with their alliances with radical Islamists and their attempts to infiltrate the army. The coup is said to be eventually supported by the US who are recognizing more and more that the MB are a liability and that they will not be able to deliver on their promises of a stable Egypt.
- The other scenario which is less talked about is a popular uprising against the MB triggered by the pressing economic situation and the security vaccum, which could be relatively violent and will force Morsi to resign and call for early elections.
I think that both scenarios are pending the speed at which things are going to develop. The major problem with bad governance is that if things take a very long time to deteriorate, people tend to adapt, especially after the two and a half years of turmoil, Egyptians are less and less willing to risk another uprising that will result in further chaos, especially with no vision for a better future. What complicates issues even further is that there are currently no alternatives to the rule of the MB today except for the army. The opposition has failed to develop a viable alternative. With the army shying away from politics, even if people would like the army to take over, they do not have the confidence that the military will venture off and support removing yet another president.
Above is the sequence of events that many people are predicting will happen. I would like to contemplate another scenario; one where the MB are going to be able to navigate - very ungracefully but successfully – through the coming few critical months. Their objective would be to keep things afloat or at worst to slow down the rate of deterioration to the extent where not enough momentum will build to spark a new uprising. The slow deterioration means that they will only have to deal with small pockets of unrest, which might rock the boat but not sink it. They have, so far, shown that their strategy is to dive head first into every situation and worry about cleaning up later. Every time they are faced with a new challenge they open new fronts to keep everyone busy; sort of a political Ponzi scheme. It’s all about wearing their opponents out so that they are unable to fight them anymore. I can see a scenario where this strategy – unlike the theory above – will not catch up with them. The scenario is based on the following assumptions:
- That the army is clearly trying (at least publically) to keep itself out of politics and would much rather remain an independent entity that does not get involved in the management of day-to-day civilian issues.
- The MB will be able through frivolous borrowing to make available enough resources to cover for the ever day needs of the population. There will surely be some economic pressure on the average Egyptian but it will be mounting in such a slow manner that it will not result in a nationwide move to oust the president / parliament.
- With the absence of organized opposition, the population has no viable alternative, which is one less reason to start another uprising.
With a few more months in power, additional appointments in the government and a some tailor made legislation, if the pressure eventually mounts too much, they will be willing to step down from the presidency after having secured a) a majority in the parliament giving them leverage over the Prime Minister and b) a quasi-Ikhwan presidential candidate that will ensure that things will – to a large extent – remain the same.
In the meantime, what the MB are doing is trying to fit as many legislation and appointments in the government as they can in order to ensure that when / if the pressure mounts they can step down from some of their positions but retain power. This – in my opinion – can work well for them in the medium term. Knowing them, they couldn’t care less about the long term. They are all about winning small battles, one after the other. I think that this will eventually be the reason for their downfall but it might not be anytime soon.
So, the bottom line is, if things deteriorate fast enough, we could see an uprising against Ikhwan which could trigger an interference by the generals (who have in more than one occasion hinted they would do so), however, if the MB manage to sail through the coming few months and force some form of normality, we could be in for a good few years.