The Brotherhood’s downfall (part 1)

The fall of the Brotherhood is the rational outcome of the group’s political, organizational and ideological makeup. This realization challenges the Brothers’ own propaganda informed by their victim mentality. The Brotherhood has tried to portray its downfall as the outcome of a conspiracy led by the military and the remnants of Mubarak’s regime, disregarding the massive public dissent against its rule. This conspiratorial reasoning has also been propagated by various American media outlets.

The Muslim Brotherhood could not in any way be considered a movement for change. The Brotherhood could be best described as a closed socio-religious sect that adopts an identity-centric authoritarian perception of itself as the guardian of society’s Islamic identity. This Islamic identity, according to this perception, should ideally be imposed through the modern state’s central apparatus for the Brotherhood to fulfill its mission. The Brotherhood also adopts conservative rightist socio-economic policies.

Therefore, despite their alliance with revolutionary groups in the different stages of the January 25 revolution — for example, during the 18 days leading up to former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from power, and during the 2012 presidential election — they remain far from embracing any socio-political democratic aspirations. Evidence of these realities are ample, if we only take a quick look at deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s presidency.  

On one hand, Morsi’s government and the previous Brotherhood-dominated Parliament produced an authoritarian, military-biased constitution, in addition to a myriad of non-democratic policies and legislation. These policies were meant to restrict the right to assemble, protest and form NGOs. This was in addition to deliberately harassing the media, labor unions and targeting political activists. The Brotherhood also appointed its members to executive and legislative offices, in addition to key administrative posts. This is a reflection of the Brotherhood’s prototypical cult mentality that believes in divvying up the booty.

The Brothers carried on with the same socio-economic policies of the Mubarak regime. Crony capitalism, borrowing and rentier-based economic policies all persisted under the Brotherhood administration, without any regard for serious economic reform. This was, of course, in addition to the group’s deliberate incitement of religious sectarianism and violence against its political rivals, which created a highly zealous and polarized political environment.

On the other hand, the Brothers flirted with the old regime and its institutions on their road to power. That being the case, it is quite ironic that the Brotherhood is speaking against the military now, when it had worked closely with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in orchestrating the transitional period following the January 25 revolt, to the point of demeaning anti-SCAF revolutionary groups in the eyes of the public. The MB sided with SCAF in the crimes it committed between September and December 2011. This includes the Maspero, Mohamed Mahmoud and the Cabinet massacres, where protestors were killed at the hands of the military and security forces.

Additionally, the Brotherhood-drafted constitution gave the military huge privileges and immunities. The MB also completely rejected any implementation of transitional justice programs, and the restructuring of the police, whose budget, along with that of the military’s, probably doubled under the Brotherhood’s reign.

And lastly, the Brotherhood government tried over and again to restore harmony with the Mubarak regime oligarchy through legal and political means.

Despite all this, the Brotherhood failed to establish a right-wing ruling pact, which led the “old regime” to abandon the group at the onset of the June 30 popular uprising. The reasons for this failure are twofold. First, the lack of high caliber within the Brothers and their inability to build political alliances. Their monopoly of power was evident, for example, during the drafting of the constitution, the formation of the cabinet and electoral alliances.

More importantly, however, the Brotherhood’s own makeup as a closed, socio-religious cult that does not welcome new “clients” made its potential allies — namely the army, the police, the judiciary and the bureaucracy — wary of the group. This is in addition to the fact that these state institutions were already groomed to hate political Islam.

The above-mentioned state institutions also hold different views than the Brotherhood when it comes to “national interests,” “world-view” and “Egyptian national security.” The Brotherhood further raised these state institutions’ suspicion when Morsi’s administration turned a blind eye to the violence and terrorism of Islamist groups — who form the main support base for the Brotherhood — in Sinai, for example.  This is in addition to the incitement of sectarian violence against Copts and Shias, in particular, by radical Islamists in a manner that threatens the eruption of wide-scale civil strife, which is a redline for those state institutions.

Accordingly, the Brotherhood’s efforts to become the new ruling class uniting the state’s institutions under its leadership failed. What the Brothers tried to do instead was to sway those state institutions under their influence, rather than try to reach a common understanding or ruling arrangement with these players. This miss by the Brothers is most evident in their dealing with the judiciary.

Finally, it is obvious that the Brothers were never adamant about implementing any true restructuring of state institutions, or bringing about real change. What they did instead was attempt to infiltrate these establishments or create alternative structures that they could control. This process was rightly termed “the Brotherhoodization” of the state.

This attempt by the Brothers to dominate led the old state’s institutions to abandon ship on June 30. Abandoning the Brothers was not a result of a rejection of their “reformist project,” as they claim. They ditched the Brotherhood because of the latter’s inability to adequately reestablish the authoritarian regime in collaboration with the old regime.

Despite the Brothers’ propaganda regarding the deep state’s enmity for their rule, they miscalculated the true power balance and the prerequisites for partnering and cooperating with state institutions. This has only proven how secular groups overestimated the Brothers’ power and their ability to “Brotherhoodize” the state.

A longer version of this article first appeared in Arabic on Jadaliyya. This is the first part of a series of articles by the author on the topic. 

Ashraf El-Sherif 

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