Egypt resists Ikhvanisation

Egypt resists Ikhvanisation

On the first anniversary of taking power in Egypt through the first-ever free elections in the country’s history, President Mohamed Morsi faced a protest from the crowds gathered in Tahrir Square on June 30.

Two years ago, it was the same Tahrir who had revolted against its dictator Hosni Mubarak and led the way to elections. Morsi, a politician from the Ikhvan (Muslim Brotherhood) tradition with a U.S. education background (in engineering) came to power with 51.7 percent of the votes and high hopes. He promised to put an end to political and economical problems of his country in the first 100 days, taking the example of the “first 100 days” tradition of U.S. presidents. At the end of his first 100 days, the polls showed his approval rating as high as 78 percent; the same polls show it as low as 32 percent nowadays.

Güven Sak, the head of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey listed a number of Morsi’s economic failures in his in-a-nutshell article in the Hürriyet Daily News on June 29, with a touch of a lack of political inclusiveness of his ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). The FJP has been partly inspired by Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in Turkey, which was seen as the most successful example of a movement having Islamic roots taking power through free elections. It was no one but Erdoğan himself who had told Egyptians in September 2011 that there was nothing wrong with the secular system, as it made it possible for the AK Parti to have power.

But it was Morsi’s attempt to ask for all state powers, including control over the judiciary and exempting himself from judicial prosecution in November 2012 that marked the beginning of things turning sour. He had to withdraw the decree in December, bowing to a chain of protests and was able to soothe the state apparatus by rewarding the military with even more powers than in the times of Mubarak. Perhaps he assumed that modernist layers of Egyptian society had been relying on the military’s potential to intervene in political life against the Ikhvanization policies, so if they see the army supporting Morsi they would change their attitude.

It seems it was a wrong assumption. The picture of Egypt is a divided one once again. This time the divide is not between the Baathist authoritarianism and hunger for freedoms, but seemingly between the imposition of the Ikvan ideology on the Egyptian system and those who do not want to lose their hopes for a more free and prosperous Egypt.

It is not about the indigestion of the victory of Ikhvan, the most deeply rooted Islamist movement of the Middle East through the ballot box, not a disrespect to people’s choices for the Ikhvanist party. But what the protesters demand is respect for their right to exist as they are, not bowing to political and cultural assimilation through the leverage of the ballot box.

Egyptians too, like Turks, understand clearly that free elections are a ‘sine qua non’ must of a democracy, but not the whole of it; separation of judicial and legislative powers from the executive to enable checks and balances and basic freedoms like press and assembly are vital, too.