The waning power of the Muslim Brotherhood

One remarkable characteristic of periods of transition is the fluidity of public opinion’s views. Popularity may wane in a matter of a few months, as the Muslim Brotherhood is learning in the tumultuous post-Mubarak Egypt. Althought the Brotherhood swept in the December parlamentary elections, the chances of its candidate to the presidency, Mohamed Morsi, are slim, not to say null.

Patience runs short in revolutionary countries, and the Brotherhood is taking part of the blame for the lack of improvement in people’s lives after four months since the establishment of the Parliament, which is under its control.

Moreover, the islamist organization has lost much of its credibility after breaking its long-held promise not to field a presidential candidate. The image of the Brothers as a power-thirsty group that puts first party interests over the ones of the country has permeated a large swath of the Egyptian society. All this explains that Morsi does not even reach the 10% thresold in the surveys.

This situation has a direct translation in the political arena, and it explains that the main Salafist movements and parties rejected to support the Morsi in his presidential bid. Instead, they decided to endorse Abdel Moneim Aboulfotouh, a former leader of the Brotherhood known for his moderate ideology and who is rising in the polls.

The powerlessness of the Brothers was specially visible this week, when none of the other parties in Parliament supported them in their showdown with the Military Junta over the future of the Ganzoury government. This loneliness is also the result of their arrogance in the previous months, when they put forward several initiatives, like the formation of the Constituent Assembly, without looking for a consensus with other political parties.

To make matters worse, the new freedom of expression in the public sphere is making very difficult for the leadership to enforce blind discipline and obedience among members, one of the main values of the organization. In fact, several leaders have expressed publicly their opposition to some decisions of the leadership, and some even endorsed Aboulfoutouh.

However, all this does not mean that the Brotherhood is on the verge of collapse, or becoming irrelevant. This historic organization has showed its resilience in darker periods, so it will ride the storm. And probably, it will remain the most important political party in Egypt for many years to come.

However, the assumption -and fear- by many Western analysts that Egypt will become the Brotherhood’s fiefdom should be put to rest. The current Egyptian society is too complex and plural to be utterly controlled by a single political movement.


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