By Patrick Martin, Globe and Mail, December 2, 2011
With Islamist parties poised to win a majority of seats in Egypt’s parliamentary election, the country’s Christians and secular Muslims are growing desperate for ways to avoid the restrictions of an Islamic regime.
Many are quietly discussing what they call “Plan B,” an exit strategy – first for their money, then for their family. Others imagine a cataclysmic outcome
“The odds of there being violence have just gone up,” says a well-connected business consultant in Cairo’s affluent Maadi district. “Mubarak’s old guard hates the Islamists,” he explained. “They might try to disrupt the electoral process in hopes that the army will step in.”
It may take something like that to derail the Islamists’ campaign. The lead established after the first round of voting by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the strong showing by the upstart Salafists’ Nour Party may actually increase in the second and third regional rounds of voting that end in early January. These rounds, in Giza, the Nile Delta, Sinai and Upper Egypt, are even richer veins of conservative Muslims.
If the Salafists can do this well in Cairo and Alexandria without much of an organization, says Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, imagine how well they can do in these other areas and with the number of volunteers they now can draw on.
Seeing as it’s falling behind, the leading secular movement, the Free Egyptians Party, created this year by telecom mogul Naguib Sawiris and some like-minded business people, met Thursday to plot its strategy for the upcoming rounds.
They want redress for numerous electoral violations by the Brotherhood’s FJP and are asking the courts to strike down some FJP gains.
They also intend to make substantially larger ad buys on television, radio and the Internet, in hopes of attracting more voters. And they are assembling a much bigger army of volunteers to better get out the vote.
More than any of that, however, the Free Egyptians plan to use fear to turn their electoral deficit into a political advantage.
“Many Egyptians share our concerns about the prospect of an Islamist government,” said Naguib Abadir, the FEP’s executive director. “We expect large numbers of such people to come forward and support us.”
It is not just people’s fear of conservative moral regulations that will cause this stampede, the FEP believes, but their fear also of a national economic collapse.
As if on cue, the financial assistant to military chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said Thursday that Egypt’s foreign reserves will fall to $15-billion by the end of January from $22-billion because so much capital is fleeing the country.
The collapse in tourism and foreign investment since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak has driven the Egyptian pound to its lowest level in almost seven years.
While the FEP is strongly critical of the Brotherhood’s party for violating electoral rules, the secularist flag-bearer says it will not violate rules in retaliation. “We would lose the moral high ground,” said Mr. Abadir, “one of our biggest assets.”
It is not only Egyptians who are fearing the Islamic Brotherhood's coming to power in Egypt. The rest of the world is also fearing that scenario. Opening the ballot box to all citizens is one thing; doing it immediately after 42-plus years of one-man rule is quite another. How can the people become educated about the implications of various potential scenarios from massive voting within less than a year after the ouster of Mubarak? The short answer is, "They can't!" And the people with the biggest bank accounts will have the most influence in the elections process, something the west has already had too much of.
The rest of the world is watching, and somewhat apprehensive about tidal wave #2 that may sweep Islamist governments into power after watching with amazement wave #1 that swept the dictators out.
Egypt would do well to slow the process down a little, conduct full public education of the implications of various political "reforms" including the participation of a vigorous fourth estate to probe the intentions of all parties and candidates. There is far too much euphoria about the success of the Tahrir Square movement to remove Mubarak for the depth and breadth of the new government's intentions to have fully been comprehended, even in a relatively intelligent and educated populous.
If a massive exodus of both money and people from Egypt is one potential result of an Islamist government, those who remain will have their options restricted, their lives and education curtailed and their international relationships potentially impaired. Theocracies, no matter the root of the theology, are essentially unworkable. They are also mixing oil and water, metaphorically, in an "unholy" attempt at combining the matters of state with matters of the theology.
And frequently, the fundamentalists whose energy and myopia brought the movement to power are unable to govern all of the people because their interest is so brittle. That dynamic is not different dependent on the theology; it happens with all faith roots.