Egypt seen as graveyard of Arab Spring and Islamist ambitions for power
As the army ruthlessly crushes the Muslim Brotherhood on the streets of Cairo, having swept away its elected president, Egypt is being painted as the graveyard of the Arab Spring and of Islamist hopes of shaping the region’s future.
This week’s bloody drama has sent shockwaves out of Egypt, the political weathervane and cultural heart of the Arab world. The effect on the region of the army’s power grab will not be uniform, because while countries such as Egypt are locked in a battle over identity, other states, from Syria to Yemen, and Libya to Iraq, are in an existential struggle for survival.
The Egyptian chapter of the Arab awakening began with the uprising that ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and has moved on to the spectacular implosion of the Brotherhood that replaced him. Having been outlawed intermittently since their founding 80 years ago, the organization won parliamentary and presidential elections, then self-destructed in one year.
Deposed President Mohamed Mursi alienated all but a hard-core constituency by devoting his energy to seizing control of Egypt’s institutions rather than implementing policies to revive its paralyzed economy and heal political divisions, analysts say.
“I was surprised by the rapid fall of the Islamists,” said Jamel Arfaoui, an analyst on Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.
“I was expecting that the Muslim Brotherhood would continue long in power and benefit from the experience of the Islamists in Turkey,” where the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party has won three straight elections.
The Egyptian Brothers, or Al-Ikhwan, now have reason to fear they could be back in the wilderness for decades after the army, with much bloodshed, imposed a state of emergency last week. The last time emergency rule was implemented – after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 – it remained in force for more than 30 years.