The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

In Translation: Hamzawy on the West's double standards

One of the odd outcomes of the Egyptian uprising is the disenchantment, not to say anger, of part of the secular opposition with the West in general and the US in particular. These have, the idea goes, betrayed democratic ideals by encouraging, even boosting, Muslim Brotherhood rule after the fall of Mubarak. The US Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, is widely believed to have told Washington that the MB are "the only game in town" (as have a number of analysts). Many voice disappointment with the silence of the Washington and Brussels over abuses by SCAF or Morsi, or the muted response to the recent constitutional declaration crisis.

Thomas Carrothers, in a recent Carnegie piece (to be discussed separately later), mentions this malaise between diplomats and policymakers. His former colleague Amr Hamzawy, a political analyst turned revolutionary politician, turns the tables around and accuses the West, in the piece below, of reinforcing the "shadow government" of the Brotherhood at the expense of the formal government controlled by the Morsi administration and the Freedom and Justice Party. 

As always, our In Translation series is made possible through the support of Industry Arabic, whose friendly and efficient services we urge you to try out.

The West's Double Standards
Amr Hamzawy, al-Watan, 9 May 2013
The bifurcation of Egypt's government into an official and unofficial administration – as has been noted before – is at the root of a serious crisis that is blighting the chances for democratic transition and the rule of law. One half of this dual administration is made up of the president, his team of advisors and his government as the executive wing on one hand and the Freedom and Justice Party as the legislative wing on the other. Meanwhile, the other half of this administration is composed of the Muslim Brotherhood and the shadowy figures that they have placed in influential political and executive positions that involve direct, decision-making authority. This dual administration now holds sway over the Egyptian state, its institutions and agencies, while giving birth to disastrous mix-ups and derailing plans to reform the state, to implement transparency and freedom of information, and to ensure accountability and equal opportunity.
Egypt now has an official administration for its foreign affairs linked to the presidency, the Foreign Ministry and the Freedom and Justice Party, and an unofficial administration in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, with its Guidance Bureau and committees.
Egypt now has an official administration for international cooperation, grants, aid and loans through the relevant ministries, and an unofficial administration in the form of Muslim Brotherhood negotiators, who have trotted over a wide span of countries and regional (the European Union) and international (the IMF and the World Bank) donor institutions.
Egypt now has an official administration that has stumbled into files on the former regime's corruption and cases involving businessmen -- which fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecutor's Office,  an office whose chief employee (the Public Prosecutor) was appointed by the president. This is taking place alongside an unofficial administration presided over by shadowy figures and mediators from the Muslim Brotherhood, who are seeking to reach settlements and deals whose terms are unknown to the public.
This bifurcation into an official and unofficial administration surpasses previous examples as it is turning into a general pattern of governance. Meanwhile, it is we, the citizens of Egypt and Egypt herself who pay the price for disastrous mix-ups, and we end up empty-handed with regards to implementing the groundwork for real democracy, transparency, freedom of information, accountability, etc.
The danger also lies in the fact that Western countries – with their typical double standards – have accepted this bifurcation and have started to deal with these dual administrations in Egypt completely out in the open. If you go to the U.S., you will find Egyptian diplomatic delegations and representatives of the president and the government, as well as shadowy visitors from the Muslim Brotherhood and its committees, who are given great significance. If you go to Europe, you will find the same situation has developed on the scene and it has reached the point that the European Union is ready to fund undeclared activities with the Muslim Brotherhood and its representatives.
These double standards are scandalous. The West talks about democratic transition, the importance of institutions and the need to strengthen the influence of parties and currents participating in politics, but then they cooperate with the Muslim Brotherhood's unofficial administration and cut deals with them.
They claim to back transparency, freedom of information and accountability in state institutions and executive and administrative agencies, but then they completely override this and refer to the shadow administration whose policies and practices cannot be known in detail and who cannot be held accountable. 
They give support to the idea of fixing the relationship between religion and politics, then they elevate the Muslim Brotherhood over the Freedom and Justice Party -- that was founded as the Brotherhood's political wing -- through their ongoing communication with decision-makers in the Brotherhood concerning Shura Council legislation, economic and social issues, matters related to aid, etc. This is despite the fact that all these issues fall within the Freedom and Justice Party's purview, not to mention that of the official administration consisting of President Mohamed Morsi, his team and his government.