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Islam and Politics ( 26 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Emergence Of A New Order In Egypt

By Syed Faisal Ali

Jan 26, 2012

It seems that Brotherhood has learned a lesson from history — from what happened to Hamas in Gaza

A year ago, Egyptians battered by the cold and grinding unemployment, corruption and nepotism during decades-old regime of Hosni Mubarak decided to rebel and descended on Tahrir Square and dispersed only after the regime collapsed.

Again Egyptians, in hundreds, are marching toward the same Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled one of the most powerful rulers of the region.

But this time they are converging at the historic square every day to realize what they call “the dream of the martyrs” — those who sacrificed their lives, to see a true democratic dispensation in the country of Pyramids.

One year on, this is the time for introspection. Apart from their disappointment with the unpopular Military Council that is holding firm after Mubarak's collapse, Egyptians have many other complaints: No running water. No gas, no power, no factory and, of course, no jobs.

It is difficult to understand how the reforms promised by the present dispensation would help Egypt's immediate battle with a chronically weak economy and a jobless rate that has soared in recent months. Despite a gloomy sociopolitical and economic situation of discontent, the only silver lining is the peaceful general elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the biggest beneficiary of the general elections after its political front, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), claimed victory.

For a party that has just triumphed in elections, winning nearly half the seats in the first parliamentary polls since last year's revolution, the Brotherhood is sounding remarkably flexible on economic policy, social concerns and religious issues.

The group has promised voters it would improve the lives of the poor. But it is steering clear of radical proposals to redistribute wealth and stresses it will consult other parties in Parliament. It is trying hard to win over businessmen, declaring the stock market vital and pledging to respect private property and protect tourism, a big foreign exchange earner. Though the party still frowns on alcohol and some other issues, it says it will not try to ban them in tourist areas.

The Brotherhood leadership is looking more pragmatic than radical and it seems they have realized the need to keep their radical policies and planks in the backburner and move ahead with a consensus approach hand in hand with liberal voices representing different shades of Egyptians' life.

It seems that the party has learned a lesson from history, from what happened to Hamas in Gaza. And it is trying to appear moderate by adopting an appeasing tone as it strives to set up a coalition with other parties. “We will be part of a Parliament,” Ashraf Badr El-Din, head of the Brotherhood's economic policy committee, said last week. “And we will work with the support of other parties,” El-Din has said, to win over new friends and to dispel some confusion over their intention. A good beginning indeed toward reconciliation, peace and harmony in a battered and divided country.

The much-needed boost and legitimacy was accorded to the FJP when its leaders held unprecedented talks with US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns last week in Cairo. This was something unimaginable before the Tahrir Square movement, a year ago.

The meeting was the latest in a series of moves by the Obama administration to reach out to the Brotherhood in an approval to Egypt's new political reality on the ground. But Washington has indicated concerns linger about the group's attitude toward the country's Christian minority, women and the peace treaty with Israel.

On the economic front, a year after Mubarak's ouster, most of Egypt's main political parties are fumbling toward a consensus on managing the economy, as shrinking foreign reserves threaten a currency crisis and the government is struggling to finance its budget deficit.

It is a difficult, uncertain process, but a common approach is emerging and the consensus may come just in time to avert economic disaster.

The new Parliament faces other major challenges, not the least of which is to try to find a common program to induce confidence and help bring about economic stability.

The biggest party in Parliament has already made it clear, it will not insist on an “integral application of Shariah” law nor would it demand strategic posts — Foreign Affairs and the Interior Ministry? — in a future Cabinet. True to its image, the Brotherhood has indicated to run ministries that provide direct services to the people, like health or social affairs, clearly with an eye to further expand their support base.

These are ample proofs of Brotherhood's pragmatism and moderation, and a reassuring message on the future of Egypt. It also makes it clear that a mixed parliamentary presidential system is the best for Egypt at this current transitional period, with no scope for any party to pursue controversial agendas. That's the triumph of the Tahrir Square movement.

Interestingly, though the Brotherhood is constantly changing, keeping moderates to distinguish itself from the ultra-conservatives. But will the party keep it up? It isn't sure. Some analysts are still skeptical about Brotherhood's future role and plans.

Another cause for concern, for the US, is the fate of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty signed in 1979 on which, the position of the Brotherhood is still ambiguous.

But one thing is crystal clear, the once-banned Brotherhood, which for decades pursued radicalism, is seeking to emerge as a credible and moderate force after the elections and sincerely trying to win over friends cutting across ideological and religious red lines. That's no less an achievement in one year.

A year after the uprising, the first sign of a democratic rule is the opening of the first post-Mubarak Parliament in Cairo and the handing over of the legislative powers to it by the ruling Military Council. That itself is remarkable.

The next major step in this democratic transition will be presidential elections, scheduled to be held in June, when the generals step down.

No doubt, Egypt has a long way to go but certainly, this is the beginning of the emergence of a new order in Egypt.

Source: Arab News