Thursday, April 11, 2013

Factionalism and the MB Today

Marc Lynch remembers the internal politics of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in the years before 2011:
Put simply, the years immediately preceding the Egyptian revolution had produced a Brotherhood leadership and organization almost uniquely poorly adapted to the challenges of a democratic transition. The regime cracked down hard on the Brotherhood following its electoral success in 2005, arresting a wide range of its leaders (including currently prominent personalities such as Morsy and Shater), confiscating its financial assets, and launching intense media propaganda campaigns. 
This took a toll on the internal balance of power inside the Brotherhood as advocates of political participation found themselves on the defensive against the more conservative faction, which preferred to focus on social outreach and religious affairs. In 2008, conservatives were declared the winners in all five seats being contested in by-elections to replace empty seats on the Brotherhood's highest official body, the Guidance Council; reformists cried foul. The next year, in new elections to the council again marred by serious procedural violations, the most prominent reformist member, Abdel Monem Abou el-Fotouh, and a key intermediary between the factions, Mohammed Habib, lost their long-held seats. Supreme Guide Mohammed Mehdi Akef, an old-guard conservative who had nonetheless maintained a careful balance between the factions, later stepped down and was replaced by little-known conservative Mohammed Badie. Over the next few years, a number of leading members of the reformist faction left the Brotherhood or were excluded from positions of influence.
When the revolution broke out, then, the Brotherhood had already driven away many of its most politically savvy and ideologically moderate leaders. Its leadership had become dominated by cautious, paranoid, and ideologically rigid conservatives who had little experience at building cross-ideological partnerships or making democratic compromises. One-time reformists such as Essam el-Erian and Mohammed el-Beltagy had made their peace with conservative domination and commanded little influence on the movement's strategy. It is fascinating to imagine how the Brotherhood might have handled the revolution and its aftermath if the dominant personalities on the Guidance Bureau had been Abou el-Fotouh and Habib rather than Shater and Badie -- but we'll never know. 
This is perhaps a small example of a point I've tried to make before:  If you don't like Egypt after 2011, then part of the blame has to lie the the policies of the regime that was there in previous decades.



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