EGYPT'S SHAM ELECTION
By Dr. Daniel Pipes & Ms. Cynthia Farahat
This stunning result prompts two questions: Is this a legitimate or rigged outcome? Are Islamists about to dominate Egypt?
Legitimate or rigged? No one took seriously Soviet elections with their inevitable 99-percent returns for the Communists; and, while the process and outcome of the Egyptian elections are less blatant, they deserve similar skepticism. The game is more subtle, but it's still a game, and here is how it's played:
The Muslim Brotherhood (founded in 1928) and the military dictatorship (ruling Egypt since 1952) have a parallel ideology and a long history that makes them simultaneously rivals and allies. Over the decades, they off-and-on cooperated in an autocratic system bound by Islamic law (Shari'a) and in oppressing liberal, secular elements.
In this spirit, Anwar El-Sadat, Hosni Mubarak, and now Mohamed Tantawi tactically empowered Islamists as a foil to gain Western support, arms, and money. For example, when George W. Bush pressured Mubarak to permit more political participation, the latter responded by having 88 Muslim Brotherhood members elected to Parliament, thereby warning Washington that pure democracy means an Islamist takeover. The apparent weakness of non-Islamists scared the West from further insisting on a transition to political participation. But a close look at the 2005 elections finds that the regime helped the Islamists gain its 20 percent of the seats.
Today, Tantawi and his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) still play this tired old game. Note the various methods: (1) Reports of electoral fraud have emerged, for example in Helwan. (2) SCAF has, according to the prominent Islamist Safwat Hijazi, offered a "deal" to the Islamists: it shares power with them on condition that they turn a blind eye to its corruption.
(3) The military has subsidized both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi political parties during the recent parliamentary elections. Marc Ginsburg reports on a SCAF slush fund totaling millions of dollars in "the form of 'walk around' money, clothing and food giveaways" that enabled hundreds of local chapters of Islamist political organizations to buy votes. Ginsburg tells of a SCAF emissary who "met secretly with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist oriented political movements last April to establish local political 'action committee' bank accounts to funnel an underground supply chain of financial and commodity support."
Other Middle Eastern dictators, such as the Yemeni President and Palestinian Authority Chairman, also play this double game, pretending to be anti-Islamist moderates and Western allies, while, in fact, being toughs who cooperate with Islamists and repress true moderates. Even anti-Western tyrants like Assad of Syria and Qaddafi of Libya play the same opportunistic game in times of need, portraying massive uprisings against them as Islamist movements. (Recall how Qaddafi blamed the Libyan insurrection on Al-Qa'ida lacing teenagers' coffee with hallucinatory pills.)
Dominate Egypt? If the military colludes with Islamists to remain in power, obviously, it, and not Islamists, retains ultimate control. This is the key point that conventional analysts miss: the recent election results allow the military to keep power. As aspiring Egyptian politician Mohamed El Baradei correctly notes, "it is all in the hands of SCAF right now."
True, if Islamists control the Parliament (not a sure thing; the military could yet decide to reduce their percentage in future rounds of an unusually complex voting procedure open to abuse), they acquire certain privileges and move the country further toward the Shari'a – as far, anyway, as SCAF permits. This maintains the longterm trend of Islamization underway since the military seized power in 1952.
What about Western policy? First, press SCAF to build the civil society that must precede real constitutional democracy, so that the modern and moderate civilians in Egypt have a chance to express themselves.
Second, instantly cease all economic aid to Cairo. It is unacceptable that Western taxpayers pay, even indirectly, for Islamizing Egypt. Resume funding only when the government allows secular Muslims, liberals and Copts, among others, freely to express and organize themselves.
Third, oppose both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis. Less extreme or more, Islamists of every description are our worst enemies.
© Daniel Pipes 2011
Originally Published in National Review Online, December 6, 2011
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes.org, December 6, 2011
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for National Review Online, Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
Cynthia Farahat is an Egyptian Coptic writer, political activist, and dissident. She is co-author of a book about the Tahrir
Square protests in downtown Cairo. Ms. Farahat states that her political philosophy is somewhere between American
Conservatism and Objectivism and that she is very fond of and inspired by America's Tea Party movement.
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