This is why democracy sucks: Sometimes you get results you don’t like. Today’s story, variations of which appeared in a number of independent papers, deals with the case of Essam al-Erian, probably the best-known Brotherhood leader in the West, because he always seems to be quoted in stories about the movement.
The back story, in brief: al-Erian came in sixth in elections for five seats in the Guidance Office. A few weeks ago, Guidance Office member Muhammad Helal passed away, freeing up a seat. Supreme Guide Mehdi Akef immediately moved to appoint al-Erian to Helal’s old seat. Conservatives in the Guidance Office, most of whom are little known because they come from the provinces, took umbrage at Akef’s diktat, and have apparently rejected the seating of al-Erian, much to Akef’s chagrin.
A few points:
- Academics and others who follow the Brotherhood and often have trouble finding information on the group’s provincial leadership and cadres can take heart in the fact that the Cairo leadership is apparently quite ignorant of what’s happening out there as well, if the last quote below is any indication.
- One rarely, if ever, sees Brotherhood conservatives quoted in the press. Is this because a) reporters are lazy or b) the conservatives are press-averse (possibly because they believe, we are told, that the Brotherhood should move away from politicking and back toward grassroots societal transformation) or c) a combination of both. Regardless, the press strategy adopted by al-Erian’s supporters appears counter-productive, as it is sure to further alienate the conservatives.
- This is one of those interesting cases where the “conservatives” are upholding democratic values against the wishes of the moderate camp. In that sense it reminds us of certain “moderate Arab states” that reject democracy because it might result in a victory for the “conservative” Islamist opposition.
- Readers interested in the story should be reading Abdelmonem Mahmoud, whose coverage and commentary on the affair is excellent.
- The second half of the article, which we didn’t translate, is about the (possible) impending release of Abd al-Moneim Abu al-Fotouh, and rumors again swirling about a deal between the Brotherhood and the government, with the latter releasing some Brotherhood prisoners in exchange for acquiescence to Gamal’s ascendance.
- These “let’s make a deal” stories strike us as silly. One benefit of the Brotherhood’s increased transparency is that such a deal would inevitably leak to the press. Even if the leadership did sign a deal it would not be able to maintain internal discipline, and possibly lead some important factions to leave the group.
- This is all quite aside from the point that there is no indication that the government especially fears the Brotherhood’s reaction to inheritance, so there is no real reason for them to make a deal.
From al-Shorouk’s Saturday, October 17 edition:
A Muslim Brotherhood leader disclosed to al-Shorouq that the group has formed a committee, with Guidance Office member Dr. Muhammad Abd al-Rahman at its helm, to look into the crisis surrounding the appointment of Dr. Essam al-Erian to the Guidance Council.
According to the same source, who asked that he not be named, the committee presented its first report last week, deciding against the appointment of al-Erian at the present time. That is what stirred up the resentment of top leader Mehdi Akef and made him threaten to leave his position, in view of the intransigence of conservatives in the Guidance Office.
Abd al-Rahman’s chairmanship of the committee that decided al-Erian’s fate aroused the resentment of some Brotherhood leaders. One leader – who refused to give his name – said, “That the fate of al-Erian, who is well-respected in the Brotherhood and amongst politicians of many tendencies, is in the hands of a committee headed by Abd al-Rahman, who was a virtual unknown until he was elected to the Guidance Office last year, raises many question marks and is illogical.”
(As stated above, the rest of the article is about the expected/possible release tomorrow of Abd al-Moneim Abu al-Fotouh and the rumors that his release was conditioned on a deal between the Brotherhood and the government.)