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Rubin Reports

Is Egypt About to Elect an Islamist President?

February 23rd, 2012 - 8:50 am

Perhaps another non-Islamist candidate will appear. But who could possibly have the charisma and national appeal to come in second, much less be in first place?

I estimate — based on public opinion polls and this is a very rough estimate — that around 25 percent of the Brotherhood voter base, who voted for the Brotherhood out of a belief it could solve problems rather than due to an ideological Islamist conviction, might be ready to support Amr Moussa. Yet if the Brotherhood runs a good campaign, especially against a less appealing candidate, they could hold onto those voters, too.

The Brotherhood must decide between its two remaining options: unofficially back one of the Islamists or make a deal with Amr Moussa. And what would be the terms of that deal? Amr Moussa has no party or organized base behind him. He needs the Brotherhood. What would it demand and what would it give?

If Amr Moussa is elected, the world will proclaim that Egypt is stable, there is no problem, and the Islamist threat was a mirage. Not at all. The Islamists will use the time to build their base for long-term transformation of Egypt. What can Amr Moussa build? And remember that Amr Moussa is unique and irreplaceable. There is no other figure like him; there are plenty of Islamist leaders who will be interchangeable.

He will be more hostile to Israel and move further away from the United States. He will probably avoid war with Israel or a break with the United States. But what is happening may be a pact-with-the-devil situation. Amr Moussa will want the Brotherhood and Salafists to make his term in office comfortable. After that, he won’t care. But we will.

Yet increasingly it looks as if the Brotherhood is now too confident to go for such an option. Amr Moussa might not even be a candidate at all.

If Egypt’s next president is an Islamist, that means an Islamist regime is coming within months to the country, whatever “moderate” camouflage it receives. How will the mass media and Western governments pretend this isn’t happening? Proclaim that the Brotherhood are the moderates saving Egypt from the Salafists! Absurd, but a possible line of argument for them.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian economy is going down the drain. Does the Brotherhood want to be responsible for dealing with these problems and potentially taking the blame? Yet one should not also be too materialistic in evaluating this. Arab states have had many economic difficulties over the decades and they have responded successfully — in political terms, that is — with repression, demagoguery and blame of foreigners (the trial of evil American imperialists who aided NGOs is already beginning), and international adventures.

If the Brotherhood decides to go for the prize now, as al-Qaradawi prefers and al-Badi seems to favor, nobody is going to stop them.

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