The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Tips for the Egyptian opposition

From Brookings' Shadi Hamid:

The Egyptian opposition needed a newcomer like Kifaya to energize it, and give it a renewed sense of purpose. But it also needed a traditional giant like the Brotherhood to amplify this new voice and extend it throughout Egypt and among the mass of Egyptians. In this respect, the old opposition and the new one were not mutually exclusive. They were two sides of the same coin – both necessary but in different, complimentary ways.

Kifaya has since disintegrated, further proof that organization and institutionalization is a perquisite to longevity. In its place, a number of aspirants have appeared on the scene. The one with the most promise is a similar assortment of liberals, leftists, and Islamists under the banner of the National Association for Change (NAC), inspired and led by former IAEA chief and Nobel Prize winner Mohamed El Baradei. Like Kifaya, the NAC does not have a clear organizational structure nor clear lines of responsibility. This may allow it a degree of flexibility but it also limits the association’s ability to take decisive action.

In apparent recognition of the NAC’s limitations, Baradei has actively courted other political forces, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, in turn, launched a campaign to collect signatures for Baradei’s reform petition. In the span of just a couple months, the Brotherhood was able to collect more than 700,000 signatures, considerably more than the 113,000 NAC was able to manage on its own in a much longer period. This re-confirms, in stark terms, that no opposition movement can hope to succeed without the support of the Brotherhood. Likewise, the Brotherhood needs national platforms, such as the NAC’s, to amplify its interests in a manner less threatening to liberals and secularists at home as well as Western audiences abroad. In short, the traditional and the nontraditional opposition, the old and the new, need each other now perhaps more than ever. 

If, that is, the Brotherhood can get beyond its institutional paralysis and hedging...