The Muslim Brotherhood’s zeal for political power bears responsibility for the likelihood that a Mubarak-era holdover will win the Egyptian presidency, and the revolutionary youth defanged themselves by refusing to establish political representation, prominent dissident Mohamed ElBaradei told The Guardian.
Many Egyptians are exhausted after 18 months of struggling to break free from Mubarak’s style of authoritarian rule. ElBaradei doesn’t think the public can be moved to take to the streets again if Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s former prime minister, is elected by ballot. What must be done now, he says, is reconciliation with whoever wins the presidency and a commitment toward working to realize the revolution’s promise in future elections.
“The Brotherhood should have realised that the vote they got at the parliamentary elections was not a true reflection of their support in the street – it was the product of a specific set of political conditions at the time. They should have reached out to other segments of society and built a broad coalition but they haven’t done that – they started by saying we want to be part of big cake but they ended up wanting to have the whole cake for themselves. And that created a backlash, which will be visible in the next couple of days. People have called on them to withdraw from the presidential race, but they insist on going forward – why?”
He also argued that revolutionary momentum had been stalled by the failure of young protesters to embrace institutional leadership – wading into a thorny debate over the relative merits of horizontal and “leaderless” political change about which many activists feel strongly.
“The mortal mistake was that from day one the youth never agreed on a unified demand and never agreed to delegate authority to a group of people to speak on their behalf,” said ElBaradei. “They were very happy, and we understand that, to say the revolution is leaderless and that every one of us is the revolution. But they ended up being crushed by [armoured personnel carriers] and massacred at [the TV building] Maspero.
“I hope that they have learned the lesson and I think people are now talking about getting organised under a unified leadership and engaging the new president to find a way of working together, preparing themselves for future elections and push for national reconciliation.”