News / Middle East

    Analysis: Egypt's Brotherhood Needs Allies

    Egyptian woman casts her vote during the second round of parliamentary run-off elections, Cairo, Dec. 2011.
    Egyptian woman casts her vote during the second round of parliamentary run-off elections, Cairo, Dec. 2011.
    Elizabeth Arrott

    A leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood says the group's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is committed to working with others across the political spectrum, even as it appears poised to assume an outright majority in parliament. But some question whether the pledge of pluralism is sincere or simply an attempt to spread responsibility for leading Egypt through troubled times.

    There are two consistent and seemingly contradictory arguments made by the front-running party in Egypt's elections. First, that the Muslim Brotherhood will embrace everyone as it seeks to solve the nation's problems. And second, that the answer to those problems can be found in their slogan: "Islam is the solution."

    The group's ideology is based on the premise that Islam is central to everything from family life to national government. But the group is trying its best to remedy concerns that premise might carry for Egypt's Christians, secularists, and others should the Brotherhood win an outright majority after this week's third phase of voting.

    Essam el Erian, deputy head of FJP, says the party won't deviate from the its stated commitment to democracy, even at the expense of other Islamists, including the ultra-conservative Salafis.

    "We are not in a confrontation with any group, but still we stick to our democratic alliance with more than 10 parties representing all political factions in the country," he says. "The Salafists are respected because they have about 80 seats until now and they can have more in the third phase. So we respect the choice of the people, but we are not going to change our alliance."

    It's an uneasy alliance at best, given that FJP leaders, despite talk of inclusiveness, reject the idea of a woman or a Coptic Christian as president.

    But the Brotherhood has a long history of being practical: They built a massive following doing good works while being officially banned by the old government. And while they were not the driving force behind last year's uprising, they have embraced its results.  

    More than anything, says Erian, the FJP's agenda is now based on national unity, not ideology.

    "We are keen that the national solidarity which appeared on the revolution continues to build the country," he says. "So we are eager that all political blocs in the parliament work together according to a special agenda which puts the utmost priority on the people of Egypt prior to any political agenda."

    Some observers believe that position speaks to another aspect of pragmatism. Egyptians have seen few concrete benefits since the revolution, and expectations are high that the new parliament can bring real change.

    Fahmy Howeidi, a columnist with the Shorouk newspaper, believes FJP may be trying to provide itself cover if progress is slow.

    "They think that they cannot carry this responsibility alone, and without the assistance of the other groups, which are either liberals or secularists, they cannot move," says Howeidi. "So all of them, they can carry the responsibility. And they used to say there is no group. A single group can carry the responsibility in the coming future."

    Perhaps the biggest challenge in the near term will be just how much authority any of the parties will be able to exert. For the most part, the Brotherhood has stood by Egypt's interim military leaders even as other elements have taken to the streets to call for them to step down.

    But cracks began to appear in recent months, especially over the writing of the new constitution. The military council had promised to leave that to a parliamentary committee but is now advocating a special advisory group that would let the generals have more say.

    It's a fight that is expected to come to a head in the next few weeks, as the newly elected lower house of parliament convenes January 23.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora