World View: Egypt Prepares for Historic Presidential Election

World View: Egypt Prepares for Historic Presidential Election

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Egypt prepares for historic presidential election
  • Israeli officials watch Egypt’s election with anxiety
  • The two faces of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt prepares for historic presidential election

Egypt will elect a new president on Wednesday and Thursday, in the country’s first free election in history. There are 13 candidates, with ideologies spanning the range from liberal and secular to conservative and Islamist. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) military junta has been ruling Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February of last year, and has promised to leave the government and return to barracks once a civilian government has been selected. Nonetheless, the complete transfer of power to a civilian administration – with an elected president following an elected parliament – will by no means guarantee the absence of the SCAF’s intervention in politics, if and when the generals believe that their vested interests are threatened. But for the time being, the SCAF – on some level – has had no choice but to bow to the popular will, which demands free and transparent elections. Al-Ahram (Cairo)

Israeli officials watch Egypt’s election with anxiety

Hosni Mubarak, the deposed president of Egypt, was a three-decade partner — if not exactly an ally — of Israel, cooperating on everything from security around the Gaza Strip to the sale of natural gas. Now there’s going to be a new president, and of the major candidates, two are Islamists, associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and two are former high officials in the Mubarak regime. Although all the leading candidates make criticisms of Isarel a key plank in their campaign platforms, Israel would most prefer Ahmed Shafiq, a former fighter pilot, and a prime minister for Mubarak, who has expressed a willingness to work with Israel. Second most hoped for would be Amr Moussa (the favorite, according to polls), Mubarak’s foreign minister in the 1990s before moving to head the Arab League. He was a vocal critic of Israel in both posts, but he classifies Israel as an “adversary,” not an “enemy.” Jerusalem Post

The two faces of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has about 600,000 members today. Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), became the strongest party in the Egyptian parliament last winter. It’s being pulled in two directions, mostly along generational lines. The Brotherhood declared itself to be a non-violent movement in the 1970s, so a big majority of Egyptians have never known a violent Brotherhood. On the other hand, there are some old geezers near the top of the hierarchy who long for their old glory days of fighting the Jews, and would like to see it happen again. With regard to domestic policy, the FJP is a conservative Islamist party, but even here its membership is split over such Sharia law issues as whether all women should have to wear burqas in public. Spiegel

When the Egyptian revolution began in January, 2011, many people expressed the opinion that the Muslim Brotherhood was going to come to power and foment an Islamic revolution like the one that occurred in Iran in 1979. Many web site readers took strong exception to my Generational Dynamics analysis that said that nothing of the sort could possibly happen, and it’s even very unlikely that Egypt would abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. (See “14-Feb-11 News — Reader questions about Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood” for a summary.) Now, on the eve of Egypt’s first free presidential election in history, I have no reason to change that Generational Dynamics analysis. That’s not to say that there won’t be harsh political clashes between Israel and Egypt, but that’s a long way from the idea that Egypt will become another Iran and declare war on Israel, as some people have said they expect.