Egypt in transition
Regardless of whether Egypt is perceived as moving in the right or wrong direction, there is no denying that Egypt is in transition. It is naturally easier to identify where it is coming from, yet quite challenging to predict where it is going. For now, one can only attempt to identify the major changes amidst the confusion that characterizes the transition period. One major shift for all is most definitely the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power. For their followers and sympathizers, it is a dream come true; for more than half the population, it is the cause of fear and anger.
As much as they try to appear to be the rightful ascendants to power in Egypt, following the revolution that ended Mubarak’s thirty-year rule, their opposition will gain more strength by exposing the other side of the reality. The scene seems to be set for a “true democracy,” with a major force in power and a growing force opposing it. In the realm of political theory, this would have been an exemplary situation. It isn’t. Egypt’s attempts to evolve a new democratic rule leave much to be desired. The first massive revolt against the status quo made some dents in the system and did away with its head, yet the struggle for freedom of expression, thought, basic rights, and human dignity, the basic ingredients of a democracy, are set against a backdrop of endemic corruption, deformity of basic values, and last but not least a massive population that has been suffering with poverty, disease and severe social injustice.
Expectations are therefore sky high, making delivery of substantial changes in the quality of life of Egyptians a grave challenge for those in power. The sad state of affairs would be difficult for anyone to handle, and the Brotherhood is no exception. With a long tradition of being a banned underground religious and political movement, one can understand their own extreme jubilation at rising to the surface with flying colors. They came across early on as the most organized group, yet their role during the revolution and since then is still marred by many question marks. Even the majority they managed in the (now disbanded) first Parliament was not helpful in gaining them more support. On the contrary, out in the light and on the surface, they have displayed a challenged ability to withstand political criticism and opposition.
If the Brotherhood was initially blinded by a lust for power and tempted by the allure of ruling Egypt, most of the opposition has also so far been blinded by a built-in fear and antagonism towards any form of religious rule. Both could be missing the most critical point in the political game: the welfare of Egypt and the Egyptians. Now that the dust has slightly settled and the pressure is less intense, both seem to be recalculating their stances. The next political opportunity to establish a more mature and positive power sharing will be in the new parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the political scene can no longer continue to be only a crude struggle for power; it will have to slowly shift towards competing to do the best for Egypt. Those who deliver will become Egypt’s new rulers, and Egyptians will one day be the winners.