Consider also that voters are electing a parliament with no defined constitutional duties. Once parliament is seated sometime next January, members will select a committee to write a new constitution. No doubt the military will have a lot to say about the drafting of the document, as Chief of Staff Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has said that there will be “no change” in the role of the military in the new constitution. If Tantawi gets his way, it would mean that the Egyptian military would still have virtual immunity from scrutiny, as well as continued domination of the economy.
Significantly, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have come down on the side of the military in trying to dismiss the Tahrir Square demonstrators. Tantawi upbraided the protestors, hinting that they were being manipulated by foreign powers. “None of this would have happened if there were no foreign hands. We will not allow a small minority of people, who don’t understand, to harm Egypt’s stability,” he said. The leader of the Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, echoed the junta’s line, saying, “There are powers inside and outside Egypt that don’t want stability for Egypt or development, and this is something that is being pushed and paid for,” he said.
How this cozying up to the military will affect the Brotherhood’s vote is unknown. If the turnout tops 50%, it is estimated by some that the FJP could receive as much as 35%-50% of the vote. But there is no track record to go on except for the vote in 2005 when the Brotherhood’s candidates ran as independents. At that point, it received 20% of the vote — a total it is sure to exceed this year.
Protecting the military’s economic interests, particularly in the Western-oriented tourist industry in which one in eight Egyptians work, means no radical changes will immediately take place, despite the fact that the Brotherhood has been promoting the idea of change during the campaign. It is a delicate balance and could mean that the FJP follows the example of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party in slowly adapting its Islamist agenda over a longer period of time.
As for other parties, the more secular and liberal parties are poorly organized and have little name recognition. Surprisingly, the prospects of Mubarak-era politicians in the countryside are better than one would expect. The Wall Street Journal quotes a candidate from one of the provinces saying, “Tribe, family, and religion-this is how people vote here.” The people have been voting for the Mubarak-era politicians for decades and will vote for them again because, like feudal lords, they dispense patronage and favors over their districts.
Whatever promise the future held in those giddy days following the departure of Hosni Mubarak has been strangled by the harsh reality of military rule and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even if the country makes it through this torturous electoral process, the government that emerges from the confusion will be nothing like the activists and idealists who put their bodies on the line to oust a dictator imagined.
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