Tags: Middle East | Israel | Egypt Unrest | egypt | muslim | brotherhood | election

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Rising in Power

By Christopher Ruddy   |   Sunday, 03 Apr 2011 09:32 PM

Revolutions often begin resembling Jell-O but end up with new structures as hard as concrete.

We are now seeing some firming of the new post-Mubarak political construct, and it is indeed worrying.

Quite worrying, especially when one considers that the Obama administration has moved for regime change in Libya without consolidating its success in Egypt.

What happens in Egypt will have serious implications for not only the Libyan situation but also the entire Arab world.

Also at stake is the fragile peace between Israel and Egypt, and a cold peace between Israel and other Arab states.

Last week, the military council now ruling Egypt announced that parliamentary elections would take place in September.

At first blush, this seems like good news. But a good friend of mine, Ahmed Said, a prominent Egyptian businessman with a strong pro-Western orientation, says the news of the election has dealt a serious blow to democratic secularists.

These secularists fear the Muslim Brotherhood, as most of us in the West do, and are witnessing its remarkable rise to power with the help of the military government in Cairo.

With no real structure of diverse political parties in Egypt, the military's election announcement will serve the purposes of the Brotherhood.

With just five months to prepare, nascent political parties no doubt will remain fragmented.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is well funded and well organized. Just eight years ago, despite Mubarak's rigging of the election, the Brotherhood put 88 members into the sham parliament.

Egypt, Ahmed reminds me, is a poor nation with a large population both rooted in rural and religious ways. Illiteracy rates exceed 40 percent.

We saw the implications of this in March, after the military junta rushed to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments, seemingly reformist, but opposed by the secularist democrats. The military and the Muslim Brotherhood backed the amendments.

The Brotherhood's slogan that voters would be obeying Allah if they voted yes, worked effectively. The amendments passed by an astounding 77 percent of the vote out of 18 million cast. (Interestingly, the military government didn't even bother to publish what exactly the amendments said before election day.)

My friend notes that there are other troubling signs that the military and the Muslim Brotherhood have made a corrupt bargain: The military will let the Brotherhood gain power as long as the military keeps its exalted position and, possibly, the presidency, which will be voted on in a plebiscite this fall.

Ahmed writes: "One of the major Egyptian newspapers, al Masry al Yom, announced that 3000 Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Iran, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Somalia have been allowed to return to Egypt! Of course it is the military apparatus that allowed them to come back. But, why now? This also coincided with releasing the Sadat assassins who came out from jail as heroes. They even encouraged the media to treat them as such. We [the secularists] see them as criminals and not as political prisoners."

Clearly, the West should be encouraging the Egyptian military to postpone elections.

Mohamed ElBaradei has called for this and urged the military to turn power over during a transition period to a presidential council composed of military, civilian, and judicial representatives.

Where is the Obama administration as Egypt's orbit moves away from the U.S. into the hands of radical Islamists?

Apparently focused on Libya and paying little attention.

Previously I had praised Obama's handling of the Egypt crisis. Siding with the pro-democracy forces there was morally right.

And I support Obama's support of opposition forces in Libya.

But such support must be predicated on a plan for the day after regime change, and how the United States can help foster democratic institutions and forces friendly to American interests.

Democrats like Barack Obama were quick to criticize President George Bush, and justifiably so, for not having such a plan for Iraq in the post-Saddam era.

Now, Obama is making the same mistake.

It's still early for Egypt, and it has not been lost yet. But we must act soon.

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