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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

An Accidental Revolutionary


SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | New Delhi, June 27, 2012 16:41
Tags : Muhammad Morsi | egypt president | hosni mubarak | egypt elections | muslim brotherhood |

mohammed morsiMuhammad Morsi is one lucky man. A year or so ago, he could have hardly believed that he would be sitting in the President Office in Cairo. In fact, when he won the parliamentary elections in 2000, it was widely perceived that it was nothing more than a fluke. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was banned for all practical purposes and its members were barely allowed to contest polls as independents. That too only those members who were not banned individually. Morsi was lucky enough not to be seen as its hardcore members and managed to scrape through. Similarly, when the elections took place, he bagged not only the MB cadre votes but also of those voters who dint identify him with MB. Basically, he benefitted from the confusion.

His first term in the parliament was not all that impressive either. But he survived the term and the purges. On the personal front, he did achieve a sort of visibility in a nation where media showed little of or about the opposition. He did try to project himself as a liberal face of MB to some success.

It is a misconception on the part of western analysts to think that MB is a monolith. It is not. Broadly speaking, there are three streams inside its rank and files. The first one, the most conservative one, draws its life and blood from rural Egypt that remains conservative. It is this stream that the ruling elite and the west were afraid of all these years. But it is just one of the branches. The second stream is controlled by pragmatists. This stream draws its life and blood from semi-urban and urban Egypt and has sharp differences with the conservative streams over number of issues including the accommodation of minorities. It is this stream that Morsi belongs to. There is a third stream as well. Although small in number, this group wants radical change in the thinking of MB and the way it functions. It wants to introduce some fresh ideas that corresponds with the modern trends and is facing resistance from the conservative lot.

As it generally happens in such cases, the faction looks for a compromising position and that is where the faction to whom Morsi belongs, come into play. And it indeed proved lucky for him.

When the Presidential elections were called, MB decided to field an ultra-conservative Khairat El-Shater, and not Morsi for the post. As it is still technically banned, the applications were filed in the name of hastily assembled ‘Freedom & Justice Party’. And as it happens everywhere these days, Morsi was fielded as a backup candidate to avoid any disaster in case of any technical mishap. MB would have fielded anyone as a backup candidate. It happened so that Morsi was asked to file nomination without any widespread consultation. Now look at the luck. Khairat’s nomination was cancelled indeed on the technical grounds. Morsi won the day.

In the polls too, people were not enthusiastic about Morsi. He barely finished ahead of Mubarak era politician Ahmad Shafik in the first round. But the game changed sharply in the run-off. Shafik was widely perceived as someone who was part of the deep state and hence unreliable. Morsi, after sniffing victory, started appealing to a wide range of voters including those from left wing, minorities and female segments. It is here that ambiguity worked for him again. Even those who were afraid of MB decided to vote for him as they definitely did want Mubarak era to return again. All these factors weighed in Morsi’s victory. But he should be wary of what is stored for him. Even after widespread dislike, Shafik got just marginally fewer votes than he did. It is clear that people will not put trust in him so easily.

After the victory, he has tried to strike some pleasant chord. His decision to put a female and a Copt Christian as his Vice Presidents is commendable. These decisions have been greeted by muted response from the MB leadership. It has made the game rather interesting and open. The days to come will decide how flexible Morsi will be in taking decisions that are pragmatic. But don’t forget, he is no revolutionary. He has survived with loads of good luck. We can only hope that does not run out.  

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017