In taking stock of 2011 revolutions in the Middle East, Marc Lynch of George Washington University has observed that “the greatest structural change in the region is empowerment of Arab publics”. The people power in Egypt has swept the dictator from the seat of presidency. Nevertheless, Mubarak loyalists may have quietly retained chances of winning seats in future elections. March 19 plebiscite that amended country’s constitution to hold speedy elections may prove fatal to youth groups. Conversely, the National Democratic Party of Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood may benefit.
When elections are organized the established political parties have the edge over the newly-emerging youth movements. Various youth groups including the supporters of Mohamed El Baradei had opposed the vote in constitution amendment exercise. Their opposition did not muster enough votes and consequently the proposed amendment was approved.
I had argued in one of my blogs that the Egyptian military is still holding the sway over country’s affairs in the wake of Mubarak’s departure. The military was instrumental in expediting the demise of Mubarak by supporting the Tahrir Square protesters. It could not afford to be seen as siding with a beleaguered dictator, whom even the U.S. deserted after using him as a strategic tool in the Middle East for three decades.
The Egyptian military has been at the helm since the 1952 revolution that overthrew monarchy. In post-Mubarak era it is in charge of transition as High Council of Armed Forces. Its hidden desire to maintain the privileges it has enjoyed for more than 50 years may have played a role in quickly arranging plebiscite. Military’s preference for National Democratic Party of ousted president is no surprise as they had been beneficiary of Mubarak’s regime, who was with the Egyptian Air Force before succeeding Sadat in 1981.
If hastily-held parliamentary elections become fraudulent as in 2010, or the youth groups are sidelined because of the lack of time to organize and prepare for elections, National Democratic Party may be one of the winners. In such a scenario the Egyptian democracy will remain an illusion. These youth groups from Kefaya protest movement, the followers of El Baradei and the reform-minded young members of the Muslim Brotherhood were the crucial players to transform Egypt’s political landscape.
The organization with grass root level representation in Egypt like the Muslim Brotherhood looks set to perform better in future elections. By joining the uprising against dictatorship and abandoning Islamic orientation this group has shown prudence. In view of their impressive outcomes in previous parliamentary elections members of the Muslim Brotherhood are likely to repeat their performances in the changed political environment too.
But some western countries including the U.S. seem fearful for the Islamist group’s possible emergence as a power broker. Their fear is endangered by their embrace of dictatorship as a bulwark against a rising tide of radical Islam. However, any country advocating universal principles of democracy will face moral hazard not to support the government that comes to power through democratic elections.