Five years on, how the Brotherhood’s ouster transformed Egypt and the Middle East
CAIRO - As Egyptians celebrated a public holiday to commemorate the June 30, 2013, military-backed popular uprising against the Muslim Brotherhood, few could have imagined how much Egypt and the rest of the region would change in just five years.
Egypt’s democracy advocates tend to view the events of summer 2013 as the beginning of the end of political freedoms in the country. However, the changes started before June 30 that year with a show of anger against the failure of Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in running Egypt’s affairs, including addressing the problems of the Egyptian people, analysts said.
“The Brotherhood came to power in Egypt with an eye on Islamising politics in the whole region,” said Tarek Fahmy, a political science professor at Cairo University. “For them, Egypt was only the first step on a long road that culminated in reaching power in all Arab countries.”
The Muslim Brotherhood, an educational and charity organisation created in 1928, took power in Egypt in June 2012 after decades of political marginalisation and conflicts with the Egyptian government.
The movement had been banned under Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after having being given some freedoms under his predecessor Anwar Sadat. It also cooperated briefly with Gamal Abdel Nasser before antagonising him.
Mubarak’s ouster in 2011 gave the group the chance to claim power, especially with Egypt’s secular parties, which also suffered marginalisation under Mubarak, unprepared for elections.
The Brotherhood and other Islamist parties won most of the seats in parliament in the first post-Mubarak elections. Morsi, head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, won the subsequent presidential elections despite promises that the Brotherhood did not intend to field a candidate for the vote.
When the Brotherhood rose to power, however, it was intent on gaining complete control over the Egyptian government and society, which critics said resulted in a neglect of the day-to-day running of the country.
Morsi’s government faced criticism for failing to meet basic requirements, such as organising traffic, facilitating transport, removing trash from the streets, making fuel available at petrol stations, securing the streets and ensuring enough bread for citizens.
This mismanagement translated into mass street protests only a year after Morsi became president. He sent his supporters into the streets, creating fear of widespread civil unrest.
“This was why intervention by the army was inevitable,” said Munir Adeeb, an Egyptian specialist in jihadism and author of “Map of Armed Jihadism in Egypt, “but this intervention proved to be manna from heaven for political systems in the region.”
The Brotherhood wanted to establish a dynasty in Egypt. Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie said the group intended to stay in power for five centuries. Its rise to power in Egypt fuelled ideological offshoots in other parts of the region, including the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco.
The Brotherhood set its sights on stable political systems in the Arab Gulf region and worked to empower movements affiliated to it. It mended fences with Iran, causing worries in Arab Gulf countries that contend Tehran is trying to destabilise the region.
The downfall of the Brotherhood in Egypt rocked political conditions in the region. The Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, a political offshoot of the Brotherhood, disengaged from the movement in Egypt. In Jordan, the Brotherhood did the same. In Tunisia, the Islamist Ennahda movement accepted to relinquish power through a National Dialogue process and sought to distance itself from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
The political weakening of Islamists in countries such as Libya, Morocco and Yemen, was set in motion as the mother organisation in Egypt was dealt one blow after another, culminating in the group being formally designated as a terrorist organisation by Cairo in December 2013. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries followed suit.
The most important outcome, analysts said, was less about the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and more about the demise of political Islam as an international project.
“The Brotherhood has a project for international supremacy, one that starts with the control of individual countries and ends with controlling the whole world,” Adeeb said. “The movement works through its own charities and societies to control individual states on the road to controlling the globe but this project was dealt a fatal blow with the downfall of the mother movement in Egypt.”
However, Egypt’s secular political forces, which were at the heart of the anti-Brotherhood popular uprising, say the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt should have been followed with political openness and the expansion of political freedoms.
This is something that did not happen with the post-Brotherhood authorities showing little tolerance for freedom of expression.
“Conditions for the political forces are going from bad to worse with political freedoms almost disappearing,” said Khaled Dawoud, leader of the liberal Constitution Party. “The future does not look bright with this growing antagonism at the level of decision-making to freedoms in general.”