The backlash

Muslim Brotherhood is under attack from all sides across the Middle East


Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi protesting against the military in Cairo last week (Photo: Reuters)

Supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi protesting against the military in Cairo last week (Photo: Reuters)

Within the space of three weeks, Mohamed Morsi has gone from being the first democratically-elected president of Egypt to a prisoner charged with murder. With him, his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has gone from being the ascendant political party in the Arab world to being besieged on all sides.

The decision by the military-backed interim government in Cairo to indict Mr Morsi was a clear indication that the generals who now control Egypt are not about to allow the Islamist party, which overwhelmingly won the two rounds of elections that have taken place since the January 2011 revolution, a share of power in the near future.

Security forces in Cairo have tried to crack down on Brotherhood demonstrations, but despite killing dozens of protesters last Saturday near a mosque in north-east Cairo, Islamists are still holding sit-ins in the large cities.

Just a year ago, the rise of the Brotherhood seemed unstoppable. Mr Morsi had just been elected president, beating a former general supported by the political establishment. His victory came after the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party had emerged as the largest party in the new parliament.

Mr Morsi claimed to represent democracy and tried to form a coalition with other political parties, but his increasingly autocratic style of governance lead to a backlash. This came from the army, together with Egypt’s “deep state” — the establishment elements with vested interests in keeping things the way they were under former president Hosni Mubarak — and the younger pro-democracy organisations and individuals who took to the streets in rapidly increasing numbers. These protesters conferred legitimacy on the counter-revolution — or, as many have called it in recent weeks, the coup — carried out by the generals.

The Brotherhood leadership continues to cling to its claim of representing the only legally-elected government in Egypt.

- Anshel Pfeffer

The Brotherhood leadership continues to cling to its claim of representing the only legally-elected government in Egypt. However, some in the movement are quietly acknowledging the series of blunders that led to Mr Morsi’s downfall, beginning with the reversal of the original decision not to field a candidate for presidency.

Less than two years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood said that they had no plans to take over the government, but their appetite grew as rival parties struggled to get off the ground and the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia won the first elections to take place following the revolution there.

The past few weeks in Egypt seem to prove that neither the Brotherhood nor the country are ready for a democratically-elected Islamist government.

That may also turn out the case in Tunisia, which was paralysed this week by a strike to protest against assassination of a prominent politician and critic of the Islamists, Mohammed Brahmi.

Ennahda has failed over two years in power to draft a constitution, steady Tunisia’s economy or establish a balance between Islamists and secularists.

Islamist parties are under pressure from Libya to Turkey, and the Brotherhood in Syria has also lost its leading role in the rebel movement there, with the jihadists gaining ground.

A few months ago the catch-phrase was that the Arab Spring had turned into an Islamist Winter — but this summer is turning out to be distinctly stormy for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last updated: 5:45pm, August 2 2013