Following last week’s indecisive elections, the Muslim Brotherhood is urging Egyptians to support its presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi in next month’s seemingly inevitable run-off with Ahmed Shafiq, the ex-air force chief who was Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister. The Brotherhood is deriding Shafiq and his supporters as “feloul”—a scornful Arabic term for “remnants” of Mubarak’s order. (Middle East Online, May 26; Egyptian Gazette, May 25) The Brotherhood’s own website Ikhwanweb.com sports a headline reading “Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice Party: We Seek National Unity to Save Revolution,” calling on “all patriotic parties and political players to join hands and face up to [presumably meaning ‘stand up to’] the heinous coup of reactionary Mubarak-era leftovers.” But Egypt’s secular progressives are no more heartened by the Brotherhood than the “feloul.” Ahmed Khairy of the liberal Free Egyptians Party called the likely runoff “the worst-case scenario,” describing Mursi as an “Islamic fascist” and Shafiq as a “military fascist.” (Ahram Online, May 25)
A cartoon on the al-Mashhad website shows a gloomy-gus Egyptian voter at the ballot box, imagining the possible outcomes in two thought balloons. One shows an army boot labelled “SHAFIQ” crushing his neck; the other shows a scimitar labelled “MURSI” slicing though his neck.
We warned nearly a year ago that the US was grooming the Muslims Brotherhood for an Egyptian Thermidor, after news broke that the State Department had opened a dialogue with the Brotherhood. The US bid to control the political trajectory of the Arab Spring meant assuring the isolation of the secular progressives—because this bloc included socialists and Nasserists, whose doctrines are far more anathema to Washington than Islamism. As for Shafiq, recall that the US supported Mubarak nearly to the end. A restoration of the feloul would be quite acceptable to Washington—especially the paleocons or “pragmatists.”
Also note that Mursi is officially the candidate of the Freedom and Justice Party—the more conservative of two parties to have emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood in the après-Mubarak. The other is the Egyptian Current Party, which tilted in a more pro-secular direction, and ran its own candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Egyptian Current leader Mohammed Abbas clearly views Shafik as the greater threat, even if he stopped just shy of endorsing Mursi. In comments to McClatchy news service, he seemed to raise the prospect of a new revolution in the event of a Shafik victory: “We will never endorse Shafik, who means the return of the Mubarak oppression… All options are on the table if Shafik becomes president, and I mean all options.”