Mohamed Morsy Muslim Brotherhood Freedom Justice Party Egypt

Mohamed Morsy, Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt.



Nick Clegg Liberal Democrats UK Britain Parliament

Nick Clegg, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.









Seemingly, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Liberal Democrats are poles apart. But the Spineless Liberal discusses one major similarity…

Disclaimer – I definitely do NOT support the MB… Just to make it clear.

This very interesting article from Dr Johan Franzén about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt caught my eye on Huffington Post last week.

Briefly, the Muslim Brotherhood will not field a candidate for the Presidential election… despite its political party – the Freedom and Justice Party – winning 235 seats out of 508 in Egypt’s Parliament, coming first by a long margin. They claim that they will support a candidate with an ‘Islamic background’ who respects Sharia law. But Hizb al-Nour, the Salafi party whose bloc came second (with 121 unexpected seats) claim they will not field a candidate either. Where exactly is this magical President going to come from?

Why have the two major Islamist blocs pulled themselves our of the race for the Presidency, the true seat of Egypt’s power, as Mubarak and now SCAF show?

Well, there is a large part of me that’s glad they’re not standing a candidate for President. I’m sure Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama feel the same – an Islamic candidate not from those blocs should be reasonably moderate, perhaps even from the weak Liberal movement in the country. Easier to work with. Perhaps it’s intended to make us foreigners feel better, to prove Egypt isn’t slowly turning into an Islamist theocracy.

Franzén proffers an alternative.

However, I would argue that the decision is more to do with internal concerns within the Muslim Brotherhood movement. If a member of the movement became president, it would mean conferring legitimacy on the political system, and more importantly, accepting responsibility for decisions made during their presidency. As a highly ideological movement with a black and white worldview to match, getting bogged down in the murky business of international relations is something that would significantly damage its domestic support. It could even lead to a split in the movement between hardliners and moderates – something that has already happened once before in its long history.

That this is a more plausible explanation can be seen in the recent history of neighbouring Jordan, where a fraternal Muslim Brotherhood movement has been involved in the political process for a number of years. King Abdallah II of Jordan chose to appease the Muslim Brothers and on numerous occasions offered them significant government posts – including foreign minister. However, these offers were always turned down for fear of being tainted by temporal politics. Instead, its natural place has been as a vociferous opposition party that criticises corruption, abuse of power and falling moral standards in society from a position of aloofness. There is no doubt that this is its source of strength also in Egypt. As such it would be a huge risk to jeopardise its current popularity and support, which have been hard won over the course of many decades suffering political oppression, for a chance at the presidency.

The Liberal Democrats, here in Britain, about to go into our Conference in Gateshead (say hello if you’re going), are going through similar trials and tribulations. After the General Election of 2010, we had the option of staying in the safety of opposition, that wonderful place where you bask in the sun of public approval, unsullied by the dirty business of politics, where you can criticize without policy (*cough*Labour*cough*), feel warmed by your precious ideology.

We took the plunge, got stuck in, got bogged down and a dozen other idioms. We took “a huge risk to jeopardise [our] current popularity and support, which [had] been hard won over the course of many decades suffering political oppression”.

We lost a lot of support. 8-13% in the polls now, down from 23%. Not good.

We’ve been ‘tainted’ by the Coalition. We’re having to ‘accept responsibility’.

We’ve suffered splits in the party. The ‘business of government’ has meant further splits in the party, with the Social Liberal Forum being joined by Liberal Reform and Liberal Left in the space of a fortnight.

But we’re still here. They keep telling us we’re dead in the water, but we’re not.

Considering 29 million people voted at the last election, and we won 23% of the popular vote, a bit of simple maths shows that even if we take 9% of the vote next time, and we may, we still have almost 3,000,000 supporters in the UK (please bear in mind I’m no polling expert, and it assumes the same turnout, but I reckon it’s a decent rough estimate – call it between 2.5 and 4 million at present).

That’s not an unsubstantial number. It’d be nice if we had those other few million back, but that’s something we’ve got until 2015 to work on, isn’t it.

But don’t think of how many we’ve lost. Think about the fact that 3 million British citizens believe in us, believe in what we’re doing, believe in us enough to stick with us through thick and thin.

Let that thought carry us into Gateshead and Brighton. We have 3 million hopes on our shoulders, and we’re finally in government, finally in a position to actually DO something.

Perhaps the Liberal Democrats can act as role-models for the Freedom and Justice Party. Yes, the business of government is difficult. You make hard choices. You lose fair-weather supporters. You start to fracture, ever so slightly. Everything becomes a lot less black and white, and a lot more grey.

But it’s what you need to do, to prove yourself. You’re paying your dues. You see what politics is really like. You get used to losing (that’s one difference, we’ve always been used to that. That and the ideologies.). You get used to people attacking your policy. You get used to compromise. You come down off your high horse. You lose members, and maybe even see some splits – but if you’re truly strong, you’ll survive them, and even be better for it. You’ll be a better party because of it. We are. I truly believe we are.