Demokrasia, Elections and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

Israel Elad-Altman

The American-led Middle East reform and democratization campaign of the last two years has helped shape a new political reality in Egypt. Opportunities have opened up for dissent. With U.S. and European support, local opposition groups have been able to take initiative, advance their causes and extract concessions from the state. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement (MB), which has been officially outlawed as a political organization, is now among the groups facing both new opportunities
and new risks.
Western governments, including the government of the United States, are considering the MB and other “moderate Islamist” groups as potential partners in helping to advance democracy in their countries, and perhaps also in eradicating Islamist terrorism. Could the Egyptian MB fill that role? Could it follow the track of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Indonesian Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), two Islamist parties that, according to some analysts, are successfully adapting to the rules of liberal democracy and leading their countries toward greater integration with, respectively, Europe and a “pagan” Asia?
This article examines how the MB has responded to the new reality, how it has handled the ideological and practical challenges and dilemmas that have arisen during the past two years. To what extent has the movement accommodated its outlook to new circumstances? What are its objectives and its vision of the political order? How has it reacted to U.S. overtures and to the reform and democratization campaign?
How has it navigated its relations with the Egyptian regime on one hand, and other opposition forces on the other, as the country headed toward two dramatic elections in autumn 2005? To what extent can the MB be considered a force that might lead Egypt
toward liberal democracy?

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