How did the crisis in Egypt snowball?

The official spokesman of Egypt’s Salafist Al Nour party tells us about recent events from his personal point of view. This is part one of his account.

Nader Bakkar
23 July 2013

I belong to an Islamist political party that was considered – up till now – the second biggest political power in Egypt. The Al Nour Party was a partner, not an ally, for the Muslim Brotherhood in many situations, and we well understood the grave political and social situation in Egypt prior to June 30.

The Party had tried several times before to tackle the stubbornness of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the last major attempt was right after the June 30 protests broke out, when we asserted the necessity for early presidential elections. 

As we were not listened to, we decided instead to join with those forces who might be partners in determining the post-Morsi political road map. We represent a large constituency of Islamists who refuse to pay for mistakes they didn’t do and have warned our leaders against pursuing. 

Regardless of how we define what happened on June 30, whether as a soft coup or a popular modification for the democratic process, we are in serious need of looking back to take stock and fully appreciate how this situation snowballed into the current crisis.

When the Muslim Brotherhood decided to run for presidency, it already knew full well how big the problems of Egypt were. It knew that the deep state existed, that there was widespread corruption, a lack of governance and a critical economic situation. Still, its campaign was more focused on solving the problems of energy, electricity, security and garbage. It claimed that these problems had been specifically calculated to take only one hundred days to be solved. The Muslim Brotherhood also claimed that they knew exactly how to put an end to this fraud.      

The Muslim Brotherhood also declared its principled stand against all the various factions of the deep state, although it could have contained them and used their expertise.

It could have pragmatically deployed common interests to neutralise these, for the deep state doesn’t have a strong ideological stand against the Muslim Brotherhood.  
This was followed by a general punishment meted out to all who had ever belonged to the National Democratic Party, instead of paving the way to a national reconciliation that could have eradicated hostility with the interest-based old regime. Generalizing retribution is the same mistake made in post-invasion Iraq, where they eradicated the Al Ba`ath Party in a way that created a huge administrative trauma that Iraq is still suffering from.  

Generally, the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t neglect a single opportunity to make enemies with all their opponents and any group that might have a different stand. All these ‘enemies’ we herded together into one corner, with an arrogance that’s not normally found acceptable in Islamic, logical or political practices.    

After the constitution was agreed, we were hoping for a better engagement with all the state institutions. Over and over again, we asserted the necessity of engaging the opposition and pushing them into the political arena, winning back millions of those who belonged to the old regime, and forming a strong government instead of Hisham Kandil’s and appointing a new General Prosecutor through the Supreme Judicial Council. All these demands were critical and could have mobilized positively in that political situation. 

It was declared that passing the power of legislation to the Shura Council was to conclude the parliamentary elections law. However, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to pass a huge number of laws in a way that made the society alarmed. None of these laws was related to any of the popular demands, like social justice for instance. It became even worse after the laws governing the judicial authority forced the entire judiciary into a stand against the president and his government.

The response to oil and electricity problems was slow: the government lacked the mentality for quick intervention and crisis management. The hostilities between the president and his government on one hand and the judiciary and intelligence among other institutions on the other, escalating popular rage, and the interference of a media that was focused on challenging the pro-Morsi media  - these were all factors that saw the president’s popularity plummet.    

As for the military, the Muslim Brotherhood didn’t comprehend the role of the military institution in ousting Mubarak’s dictatorship by withdrawing its support and leaving him to face the crowds on his own. This brought huge popularity to the military that wasn’t dented by the first transitional period. The Muslim Brotherhood didn’t comprehend that the military established the other state institutions after the 1952 revolution, and that it considers itself a guardian to these institutions and would never accept any threats to it, especially when it comes to the judiciary and to intelligence. 

The military found more reasons to interfere as the presidency failed to deal with the situation, and it gave many hints that the presidency didn’t take seriously enough. Regardless of the constitutionality of such a situation, we tried several times to convince the Muslim Brotherhood that it was an established one that they had to reckon with. 

Up till July 3, they were relying on the army’s statement that it had divorced itself from Egypt's politics once and for all. But there is a huge difference between understanding reality and accepting it.

To be continued

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