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Give Egypt’s Mursi Some Time – OpEd


By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

I DO not understand the controversy over the article I wrote last week congratulating Muhammad Mursi for winning the Egyptian presidential elections. In fact, the felicitation was not for him in person because he won and his competitor Ahmed Shafiq lost, but because he has become president by getting the majority of Egyptian votes.

We should wake up and realize that Egypt now has a new political system. It is in the interest of all of us that the Egyptians succeed in pulling out their country from the dark tunnel it has been sinking in for many years due to conflict over power. The best political system that can succeed Mubarak is a system in which the Egyptians rotate power through polls after 60 years of military rule, which made Mubarak too conceited to appoint a deputy, and which led to a tug of war between his son Jamal, supported by the military foundation, and the public.

After the downfall of Mubarak, Egypt was left with three options. The first one was the military council continuing to remain in power and imposing martial law, but for how long? The street would definitely resist and the country might enter into a permanent turmoil. The second option was a collective rule through a transitional coalition council for two years, which was proposed by Mohamed ElBaradei. This, like the first choice, would create a power conflict in the country. The third option was the Egyptian people rotating power through elections. This was by far the best option, because it would guarantee a stable political system in Egypt for many years and subsequently the stability of the entire region. An unstable Egypt will not jeopardize the Egyptians alone, but will pose a threat to the whole region. Chaos in Egypt will be in favor of the “red countries” and terrorist organizations like Iran and Al-Qaeda.

The majority has chosen Mursi. It was a sufficient majority to enable him to win the presidential elections, although it is far from being overwhelming. This means that the new political system in Egypt has succeeded in determining who will be the president. Under this system, all political powers can compete without anyone of them having the absolute dominance. Therefore, supporting the president-elect will mean backing the new political system. It also means that the president has acquired his legitimacy, for the legitimacy of the system itself makes it imperative on him to be committed to the constitutional framework that decides his office term and authority. People can always resort to the constitution if the president fails to honor his commitments.

I do not imagine that any Egyptian president, including Mursi, will dare to go against the general inclination of the people. He will also not be able to violate the legitimacy that has brought him to his seat. Here we must ask the military establishment to play a positive role. It should not intervene in the power conflict, but protect the political system according to the constitution.
There are people who are against the new political system and, of course, they will be against Mursi. They will claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has imposed the result of the elections on both the political and military establishments. They will, therefore, consider the victory of Mursi as a shear confiscation of power and deal with him according to this belief. This hypothesis is totally incorrect.

Rejecting the result of the elections just because Mursi won and Shafiq lost is illogical. You should either accept or refuse the system in its entirety. No one, including bystanders like us opinion writers, can support or oppose the president depending on the result of the election alone, since he has from the beginning accepted the rules of the game. The elections may or may not bring your favorite candidate. You are asked to accept their results either way.

We cannot ask the Muslim Brotherhood to join the political system and accept its terms and conditions, and when they win, we refuse them just because they are not our favorite contender.

Judging the Muslim Brotherhood by preconceived notions from day one, even before they have shown any hostile attitude or committed any mistake, is not correct. We have to give them time to see what they will do before we pass any judgment on them.
I can formulate three scenarios for the methods president-elect Mursi will manage his regional relationships. The first one is that he may proceed with Egypt’s moderate attitude and its alliances with the Arab Gulf countries, which continued throughout time except for a few years during Nasser’s rule, although he changed his attitude toward them in the last two years of his rule.

The second scenario is that the new president will be committed to the line of the Muslim Brotherhood before the revolution and become hostile to the moderate countries. Such a policy is difficult to maintain, because Iran is weak and besieged. It will, therefore, be a burden on anyone who opts to be its ally. The West will not hesitate to be an enemy of any country that dares to ally with Iran. Even China has reduced its dealings with Iran, including the commercial ones. Assad is staggering in Damascus and may not be there to see the dawn of next year. Can Mursi dare to swim against the current, especially that the Arab enmity to Iran, Hezbollah and Assad is in its peak? If Mursi dares to join hands with Iran and antagonize both the moderate Arab countries and the West, he will simply be adopting a suicidal policy.

The third and last scenario is that Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood will play the role of the regional agitator without alienating the West by joining hands with opposing Islamist groups. Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood can do that, but what gains will it make compared to the possible losses? None at all.

The Muslim Brothers have come at a different regional time. They are ruling a big country burdened with serious problems. Like all ideological parties, they will face a difficult time governing Egypt. The first of these is to ensure 70 million pieces of bread every day to feed the hungry mouths, which cannot be achieved by political theoreticians, as they used to be when they were at the opposition seats. They will also discover that the countries most useful to them are the Gulf countries, which they had antagonized during Mubarak’s rule. They will also come to know that the countries most harmful to them are those that supported them just to tease Mubarak. Mursi’s concerns today will be different from his preoccupations while he was one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Will he risk following his sentiments if they are inclined toward Iran over his interests as a person who should succeed as president of a big country? This is not possible, because he was quick to deny an interview the Iranian Fars News Agency had claimed to have conducted with him. He even went further to sue the agency.

The internal affairs remain to be the widest scope for Mursi to move on. He is doomed to collide with the revolutionists and nongovernmental organizations if he dares to mess with the civil liberties. The Gulf people do not care much about the issue of liberties and civil rights, because they consider them local Egyptian matters.

We should all sleep on velvet pillows, because Egypt is larger than any president or political party.

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Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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