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Egypt´s Brilliant, Manipulative Muslim Brotherhood / Islamists are an integral part of Egyptian society, but they do not represent any sort of majority (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By DINA KHAYAT 07/31/12)Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443343704577555600848809394.html WALL STREET JOURNAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
It was a brilliant and manipulative move. At 4 a.m. on June 18, only six hours after polls closed and well before an initial count had been completed, the Muslim Brotherhood´s Mohammed Morsi held a press conference and declared himself the winner of Egypt´s presidential election.

It took nearly a week for election officials to confirm that. When they did, U.S. President Obama called Mr. Morsi the same night to congratulate him. In the interim, the Muslim Brotherhood had established the psychological fact of "President Morsi" on the ground, letting its announcement sink into the Egyptian and international psyche. By the time the official results were in, any other outcome would have seemed fraudulent.

Yet again, the Muslim Brotherhood proved themselves masters of self promotion and at delivering their message. Since the January 2011 uprising, they have succeeded in portraying themselves as the only strong, organized political force that can represent the majority in Egypt and make or break its revolution.

The reality is quite different. Consider who voted for whom in Egypt´s presidential election. The turnout for the June 18 runoff was low, with about 50% of voters abstaining. Islamists in all their hues voted en masse for Mr. Morsi, giving him (officially) 51.73% of the vote. The rest went for Ahmed Shafik, a former general and the last prime minister under Hosni Mubarak. His supporters consisted of Muslim secularists, Coptic Christians and a sizeable portion of the urban and rural poor, who heard Mr. Shafik´s clear message of security and getting the country back to work. After 18 months of nothing but demonstrations, with rising unemployment and an economy on the brink of collapse, that message was a welcome one.

Mr. Morsi portrayed himself as the candidate of the revolution, as a man of God who would stand up to Mubarak´s old regime. Yet using its full, formidable electoral machinery, the Muslim Brotherhood could only get around a quarter of Egypt´s 50 million registered voters to cast a ballot for Mr. Morsi. The close result, and the depth and strength of secularism in a people who are also deeply religious, surprised even the Brotherhood, which had apparently believed its own hype. The reality is that, while the Muslim Brotherhood are an integral part of Egyptian society and political reality, it is fatally wrong to believe that they represent any sort of majority.

egardless, Mr. Shafik bowed out gracefully, in stark contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood´s thinly veiled threats of blood on the streets should Mr. Shafik win. Ahead of the vote in June, the Washington Post quoted a leading strategist for the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat Al Shater, who warned that Egyptians would "not accept" Mr. Shafik as president: "From the first day of the announcement, people will be back to Tahrir Square."

This bodes ill both for stability and for fledgling democracy, which can´t be achieved by the specter of unrest if an election doesn´t produce the desired result.

President Morsi has now been in office for a month. It is of course far too early to judge, but the first signs are not encouraging. He barely mentions the economic free-fall and all-but absent security. The fate and shape of Egypt´s future constitution remain a mystery, as the Brotherhood attempts for the second time in three months to draft a constitution that would favor their constituents (Islamists) at the expense of others (such as women, secular Muslims and Christians). The revolution rose against an autocratic, self perpetuating regime. Now, those who professed to have been abused by it appear to be resorting to similar tactics.

The U.S. role in all this is hard to understand and harder to justify. Mr. Morsi´s and the Brotherhood´s values are not U.S. values and never were. Yet the American mainstream media bought into the Brotherhood´s rhetoric and appeared to be stumping for Mr. Morsi in the lead-up to the election. Once the results were in, the Obama administration lent the new President Morsi almost immediate legitimacy.

Many Egyptians were also shocked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton´s call for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to return to their barracks. In June, after the polls closed and Mr. Morsi had declared himself the winner—but before the official results had been announced—Mrs. Clinton said "it is imperative that the military fulfill its promise to the Egyptian people to turn power over to the legitimate winner."

Yet absent a parliament and a constitution, a full power transfer from the military would remove the last remaining checks and balances on the untested President Morsi. If Mrs. Clinton had to give any (unsolicited) advice, it would have been far more helpful and acceptable to call for a constitution that would represents all Egyptians and lay the foundation for a secular, modern, democratic Egypt.

I can only imagine that the Obama team, having been late in supporting the revolution against Mubarak, did not want to once again find itself on what it thought would be the wrong side of history. But in my opinion, the best foreign policy in the long term is one that is true to universal values. If short-term political interests preclude that, then those of us who know and respect the U.S. would have preferred silence.

Ms. Khayat is chairman and founder of an asset management company based in Egypt. She is a regular contributor of economic op-eds to Al Masry Al Youm, an Egyptian daily. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 07/31/12)

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