Monday, 15 July 2013

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood: Down But Not Out.

'Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates dipped into their oil revenues this week to stump up a cool $12bn (£8bn) to bail out cash-strapped Egypt – a swift reward for the army's removal of President Mohamed Morsi and the stunning blow to his Muslim Brotherhood.'
( Ian Black, Egypt's overthrow of Morsi creates uncertainty for Islamists everywhere, The Guardian 12 July 2013
 "I am convinced that we are seeing the twilight of the Islamic revival not only in Egypt but across the Arab world..For a while it was the only alternative to secular dictatorship. That was the conventional wisdom for 30 years. It no longer is." - Hani Shukrullah.
The demise of Islamism as a force in Egyptian politics is greatly exaggerated. The two questions are really these; whether the new government can reverse the economic chaos and, ominously, the prospects of worsening food shortages and whether it can do so rapidly enough to placate those on the streets.

The bleak reality is that if the new government cannot ensure food security then it faces increased anger in the cities will be exploited by the Muslim Brotherhood. Hunger will drive the poorer elements of Egyptian society to support the removal of the government and fights against rival protesters.

On Negotiations with the New Government .

The Guardian states,
'Brotherhood officials had denied they were negotiating with a military regime that has arrested several key members since Morsi's fall, and issued warrants for hundreds more.'
The whole point of the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy of calling on its supporters to 'rise up' is to get them into the streets and keep up the pressure on the new transitional government to regard it as a force in Egyptian politics. there is nothing much the MB can do as it cannot challenge the army.

As the new de facto government lacks legitimacy among the MB's supporters, who belong mostly to the poorer classes, struggling small tradesmen and university graduates shut out of Egypt's political and economic life, the tactic will be to position itself for any failure by the government to alleviate poverty.

If the technocratic government of Hazem Beblawy fails to deliver some improvement in the economic situation and stave off a potentialy disastrous food shortage, the Muslim Brotherhood can move centre stage again. Hence the move already to get pro-Morsi supporters protesting in Tahrir Square.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not going to collapse as a political force. It has managed to survive repression under Mubarak for years because it acted as political organisation and charity organisation providing welfare to the burgeoning population of rural migrants in the cities who failed to benefit from IMF approved policies.

The most ominous part of the Egyptian crisis is that if the economic policies of the technocratic government fail then the political turmoil will be protracted and the economy will shrink even further. With investors and tourists staying away the inflow of hard currency is dwindling and wheat imports cannot be afforded.

The Muslim Brotherhood are aware that the new government will inherit a crisis. A former Musri government minister Bassem Ouda has claimed the state had just 500,000 tonnes of imported wheat left whereas the country normally imports around 10 million tonnes a year.

The new technocratic government faces an appalling task of feeding a population that is already exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment in Egypt and creating a large pool of unemployed young men without opportunities who could well turn to jihadism. Egypt is already vastly overpopulated.

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