A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In this Karagöz Shadow Play, What Will the Outmaneuvered Brotherhood Do Now?

For the past year SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood have been playing each other, with SCAF often behaving in such an incoherent and contradictory manner that it was easy to conclude that the MB was the clever manipulator and SCAF was dancing to their tune. I suspect some of the Brothers themselves believed that, But now, two days before their candidate thought he was set to win the Presidency, the Brotherhood-dominated Parliament is dissolved and Ahmad Shafiq, a Mubarak clone (even to being an ex-Air Force commander accused of dubious business dealings) seems set to claim the Presidency,

Speculation about what the Brotherhood does next is somewhat moot since they're expected to make an announcement around 10 pm Cairo time. Some are reporting Morsi might pull out of the race, which would de-legitimize a Shafiq victory and would at least be a powerful response. But a lot of the betting seems to be that they'll stay in the race, hoping to pull off a victory on Sunday, as if the SCAF coup or whatever you choose to call it hadn't occurred. Perhaps they've gone along to get along with SCAF for so long that they feel they have no alternative but to play out the game: in for a penny, in for a pound.

It is beginning to look like the highly-organized, supposedly shrewd Muslim Brotherhood has been played like a small-town rube by a traveling con man, The timing of the judicial ruling on the eve of the elections has painted them into a corner. It seems more and more like the traditional karagöz shadow play, in which a charade has been played out while the puppeteers remained obscure.

SCAF and Shafiq are gambling that they have outmaneuvered, in turn, the Tahrir Revolutionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood, and that the bulk of ordinary Egyptians — both the "Misri Effendi" businessman and professional types and the "Ibn al-Balad " workers and peasant types — are on their side now. Whether they win the long game remains to be seen, but they seem to have trumped this hand quite skillfully, perhaps the first skillful thing SCAF has done. Or was that all part of the script?

1 comment:

Matthew Edwards said...

I believe that the Morsi campaign has since come out with a statement to the effect of: Morsi is staying in the race. I suspect that the MB is trying to capitalize on what it views as an opportunity to highlight the fact that Shafik is the candidate of the guys that decided to dissolve parliament. Seems plausible, right? Regardless, the Muslim Brotherhood has had the wool pulled over their eyes before (they supported the military coup in 1948, only to be turned on by the military government). In that sense, history may be repeating itself for the MB...but it's still early.