The Muslim Brotherhood’s Success in the Legislative Elections in Egypt 2005

Noha Antar


In the context of an unprecedented opening of the political system in Egypt in 2004/2005, η Μουσουλμανική Αδελφότητα (MB) scored an impressive success in the 2005 legislative elections that showed that the mainstream non-violent Islamist movement, despite the legal ban of the movement itself and of its political activities, is the only influential and organised political opposition in the face of the veteran National Democratic Party (NDP).Reasons for the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral success in 2005The first set of reasons for the MB’s success is related to the changes that occurred in the political context. Above all, the first presidential elections that took place in September 2005 had a direct impact on the legislative elections in November the same year: By opening up competition for the post of the president, the election signalled the unprecedented impasse of the regime seeking to patch up its legitimacy. Επιπλέον, civic protest movements had emerged that rejected the political system much more fundamentally and called for comprehensive reform. The most important of these has been the dynamic protest movement called the Egyptian Movement for Change, kifaya. Ωστόσο, as a second set of factors, the regime itself can also be considered a factor in the MB’s rising influence: The NDP and government officials have relied heavily on religious arguments; they have oppressed secular or liberal opponents; they have nourished obscurantist religious trends in Al-Azhar and among religious groups; and they have let the MB take charge of welfare services in order to save on the state budget. Also, the regime has allowed Islamist activists to enter trade unions, while reserving the leadership positions for the NDP. There is a third set of reasons for the MB’s success which is related to the movement’s long term strategy to build a societal base: The MB’s strategic approach has been to invest in welfare services so as to build a large power base among the population that they are able to mobilize politically. And indeed, not only have many MB candidates gained credibility and respect through their daily contacts with the people, the movement has been investing in the social sphere for more than 30 χρόνια. In a society in which 40 percent of the population lives under the poverty line and the political participation rate is only 25 percent, providing services in all vital sectors – education, health, and employment – has proved to be the fastest and most successful way to gain supporters. Fourth, using the religious sphere as a place for political mobilisation has been a successful strategy of the MB. Those affiliated with the MB, members and sympathizers, often saw it as a religious duty to vote for a candidate of the movement. Despite the doubts the slogan “Islam is the solution” raised among many, the MB continued to use it because it wanted to focus on religion as the determining factor for the vote, and because it had gained the trust of the people as being the movement representing Islamic identity. On top of this, the movement was able to make use of the unprecedented coincidence of growing internal and external pressures on the regime, by starting open and direct political activity in the name of the movement. The MB has also understood the importance of rallying with other opposition forces, and it has sought coordination with these forces for creating more pressure on the regime. Related to this is another important factor for the MB’s success: its organisational capacity.Has the MB changed its agenda and priorities?While the MB has opted to participate peacefully in the political process in Egypt, it remains unclear as to whether it represents a genuine democratic force or if it will use the democratic opening to pursue an authoritarian agenda. Still, participation in the political system has already transformed the movement. During the 2005 election campaign the concepts of “democracy” and “political participation” found their way into the MB’s rhetoric and, most importantly, into its political strategies of creating grassroot networks for popular support. The experience of elaborating a political programme for the legislative elections pushed the movement to publicly clarify its positions on concepts such as party pluralism – something that had previously been refused in some trends of Islamic thought as “al-tahazzub” (partisanship) with the argument that Islam calls for unity of the nation rather than its fragmentation. The MB can be considered to be part of Egypt’s reform forces, but that is primarily so because it agrees with other political reformers on the tools for bringing about reforms: rule of law, good governance and free elections. The MB’s activities in Parliament have so far demonstrated their devotion to serving their voters and retaining credibility. They have been more efficient in dealing with public needs, in revealing corruption cases and in rapidly interacting with victims of injustice than other deputies. As has been discussed above, political change in Egypt until now has not meant a significant move toward democracy. Πρώτα, this has reflected on the MB’s organisation, strategy and agenda. The “mutual fear reflex” as an outcome of the relationship between the illegal MB and the regime has required the movement to adopt a strategy of secrecy which prevents them from being transparent for security reasons. Also, maintaining ambiguous positions is a defence mechanism used by both Islamist and non-Islamist opposition forces in Egypt.

Filed Under: άρθραΑίγυπτοςΠροτεινόμεναΘέματαμέση ΑνατολήΜουσουλμανική Αδερφότητα

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