Thursday, 3 November 2011

Muslim Brotherhood Refuses to Build Consensus

They say that 80% of success in life is simply showing up.

The Muslim Brotherhood is learning the truth of this principle, as the party viscerally and dogmatically responds to supra-constitutional principles published yesterday, the product of a meeting they boycotted.

On Tuesday, 1 November 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Al-Selmy convened 500 of the country's political leaders to discuss and produce supra-constitutional principles which would guide the work of a to-be-elected constituent assembly in crafting a new Egyptian constitution.  The Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, both Muslimist parties, boycotted the meeting on grounds that elected (or selected, as the constituent assembly would be chosen by a newly-elected parliament) officials should operate without constraints.

Ostensibly, Muslimist parties, as some of the oldest parties in Egypt and providers of popular local services, would likely gain a majority in the new parliament.  Their dominance in parliament would mean a majority say in selecting the constituent assembly to draft the constitution and ultimately on the shape of the new constitution itself.  Thus measures to guide or control the constituent assembly (as reported by Al Ahram Onlin here) would presumably place limits on the Muslimists' power over the new constitution.

The Muslimists' resistance to "play with others" may have a long-term impact on the perceived legitimacy of the new constitution.  If it is dominated by one party, it will not be seen as a proper governing tool for the rest; witness the recent history of Hungary.

In the short run, had they shown up to the meeting of 500 with the deputy prime minister on Tuesday, they would have been able to have a voice in rejecting the ongoing role of the military in constitutional deliberations and procedures currently espoused in the document.

Perhaps next time major decisions about the shape of the future Eygptian constitution are made, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Muslimists will show up.  After all, in a sandbox fight between the Eygptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood, my bets are on those with the guns.

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