The Muslim Brotherhood has been driven from parliament, but unrest indicates a nation thirsty for change.
Riots erupted throughout Egypt this week, resulting in at least eight deaths and scores of injuries, over speculation that the country’s government rigged the November 28 election to drive out lawmakers from its only real rival, the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) party. The unrest indicates that a shift is underway in Egypt’s political alignment.
Although the MB is officially banned in Egypt, its candidates run as independents, and it is the largest political opposition to President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party (ndp).
The ndp won its largest share of the legislature in 15 years in the election, while the MB was obliterated, going from 88 seats to zero.
Although the government has defended the integrity of the elections, its refusal to allow international organizations to observe them has hijacked its credibility. Egyptian security forces arrested more than 1,000 MB activists in a nationwide crackdown in the days leading up to the election. Brotherhood leaders claimed that their desire to avoid appearing violent left them no way to combat the intimidation and vote-rigging.
“We were very restrained and were given instructions from up top to be extremely restrained,” said MB candidate Sobhi Saleh. “We want to show the world that we are not thugs, we will not resort to violence.”
The Muslim Brotherhood announced on Wednesday that it will boycott runoff elections scheduled for December 5 in protest of the rigging, but it has not abandoned its quest for power in Egypt. Saleh said the Brotherhood hopes the rigging will discredit the ndp in the long term, and draw more Egyptians toward the MB.
“When I lose seats this time, I will gain sympathy on the street,” he said. “People know these elections were rigged.”
Eighty-two-year-old Mubarak is reported to be terminally ill, and will likely be unable to run in the presidential elections less than a year from now. Will his successor be able to maintain Egypt’s stable dictatorship and its suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood?
At present, the Egyptian government has held this change at bay, but, as discontent with the political system in Egypt increases, we can expect to see the Islamists grow in popularity. A change in Egypt’s leadership will occur, and probably sooner than most people expect.