The weakness of non-Islamists: a disaster to Egypt
This article argues that the lack of strong non-Islamist forces is not good for the future of democracy in Egypt. It might lead to the Islamists’ domination of Egyptian politics for the coming few years.
Said Shehata , Sunday 2 Sep 2012
Non-Islamist political forces are showing signs of being troubled by Islamists' domination - and this monopoly could be harmful for Egypt. This needs urgent action by non-Islamist forces to avoid the uncertain future of democracy in Egypt. If this does not happen soon, it will be more difficult to tackle this unhealthy political environment in the future and then put the country on the path of democracy and prosperity.
I argued more than eight years ago that although the Muslim Brotherhood was the most organised group, it was not the most popular group and pointed out that their share of votes did not exceed 20 per cent of voters in any elections.
The recent parliamentary and presidential elections proved they are not the most popular group. However, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists control almost all key positions in Egyptian politics.
The main reason for Islamists' domination is the weakness of non-Islamist political forces. In most democratic countries, such as those of the European Union, the presence of strong, different political forces is the safeguard for democracy.
In Egypt, there is a big problem where non-Islamists are divided and they lack vision to deal with the current situation. For example their call for huge anti-Brotherhood, anti-Morsi demonstrations on 24 August failed to make a dent. Only thousands out of a city of 22 million participated in that demonstration and I called it the "demonstration without demonstrators" after the book Democracy without Democrats. Many joked – including Islamists - about this demonstration because of the low turnout.
There was no coordination before calling for this demonstration. It would have been better for those forces to organise themselves and reach out to people in all corners of Egypt to prepare for the coming parliamentary elections.
One cannot change the fact that the Egyptian president is Islamist. So the practical reaction of the non-Islamist political forces to Islamist’s domination should be to strengthen their grassroots base in order to be ready for the coming elections rather than calling for demonstrations. There is nothing wrong with demonstrating, but this needs to be well-prepared and well-organised - otherwise it is an embarrassment.
In addition, this stage requires actions on the ground more than shouting and protesting. Those forces need to be smart to achieve their goals and avoid the Islamisation of Egypt.
Furthermore, if those forces are weak and divided, Islamists will take advantage and lead Egypt down their path. Islamists do need other forces to build a prosperous and democratic country. It is a responsibility of the non-Islamist camps to get over their divisions and become a real force on the Egyptian political scene.
Egyptians are unwilling to have another authoritarian regime. Those forces must work with Islamists to build Egypt in this critical moment of our history. They should put pressure on Islamists though their strong political activities. Islamists must take those forces seriously.
This will only happen when those forces put Egypt before their narrow political gains and when they have a clear vision and coordination amongst their forces. It is a golden chance for Egypt to be a regional power in the Middle East. Building a strong Egypt through active and effective political forces, especially the non-Islamist ones, will enable Egypt to regain its historical position in the region.