By Ishak Mia
The victory of Mohammad Mursi, the candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood, in recently held Egyptian presidential election, was welcomed with a mixture of enthusiasm and apprehension by the rulers of Arab world. For authoritarian Arab rulers, the victory was a very disappointing one which hit them like an earthquake. Fears are now especially acute among oil-rich monarchies that the success of Egypt’s Islamists could empower their own opposition movements.
Many people, including some experts think that Mursi’s victory will bring a new epoch in Arab spring by posing more threats to Arab monarchies. His symbolic oath before millions at the Tahrir square marked him as different from “those who autocratically rule over people”. During his 30-minute speech, Mursi stressed repeatedly that people are the source of authority and decision making. He also vowed to preserve democracy in Egypt.
The newly elected president actually tried to tell people that he is one of them — not like his ousted predecessor Hosni Mubarak who ruled Egypt for three decades with a harsh fist, striking down peoples’ right to freedom of expression.
This is what the majority Arabs desire a popularly elected leader to represent and govern them with democratic behavior and norms. Although Mursi has promised not to spread the revolution beyond the homeland, implications of his victory will long be felt across the Arab region.
Two implications are quite clear in this respect. First, most Arab governments will now face enormous pressure of bringing changes to the government system founded in authoritarian monarchy tradition. The current system has allowed them too long to suppress the people’s will for democracy and freedom, too long to serve the economic and political interests of western countries in the region, too long to steal public money to grease their luxurious lives instead of dealing with human survival and well-being.
The Arab spring, which started more than a year ago in Tunisia, has sparked the people’s aspiration across North Africa and the Middle East for a democratic government that is free from corruption, nepotism and all forms of injustice. As a result, Arab masses are out in the streets for the demand of regime change and accountable government. They yearn for a society based upon the rule of law, values of merit, respect for human rights and freedom of speech. Although these are not very easy to achieve, most Arab citizens at the outset would be interested in forming a government similar to Egypt in order to get rid of autocratic rulers.
Second, the Muslim Brotherhood will gain significant political growth in several Arab countries, and its influence over Arab people will even be deeper. At present the organization is largely active as opponent of the authoritarian governments in Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen, but under a variety of different names. For example, it operates in Jordan under the banner of the Islamic Action Front (IAF) by representing the country’s most powerful political opposition. Undoubtedly, Mursi’s victory will encourage them all to revolt against their autocratic rulers and establish governments akin to Egypt.
The authoritarian regimes of the Arab world view the Muslim brotherhood as a threat to their rule as the organization harshly criticizes their traditional systems of governance. The Brotherhood’s leaders repeatedly states that an authoritarian rule cannot guarantee justice and only a state with people’s participation can make sure equal rights in the society and eliminate all kinds of human sufferings.
As democracy is the globally acceptable way of taking over state power, Brotherhood’s current approach is increasingly dedicated to proponent a democratic political system. The party has seemed to be compromised its ideals to establish shari’a law and abandoned the idea of violent revolution. This is clearly reflected in the on-going Arab spring – where Brotherhood plays a key role in shaping public opinion towards democratic upsurge.
In fact, the changed image of Brotherhood helped not only to bring the Mubarak’s regime down but also to generate public support for the victory of its candidate in the recently held Egyptian president election. The triumph has promptly inspired the Brotherhood-affiliated organizations and other Islamic movements in the region to follow the same policy.
What we now see is Islamists take the lead role in anti-government revolts in Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen and may also spread to other Arab countries in future. Meanwhile, the chief of police in Dubai warned the Arab monarchies that the Muslim Brotherhood is plotting to seize power in the six Gulf Arab monarchies by 2016. All the authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are therefore privately anxious about Mursi’s presidential victory.
The writer is an Independent Analyst of International Affairs. He previously worked at the Tampere Peace Research Institute (TAPRI), Finland. email: [email protected]