The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. H.A. Hellyer (@hahellyer) is a geo-strategic expert on the MENA region and Europe, with experience at Gallup, the Brookings Institution and Warwick University.
By H.A. Hellyer
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), until after the Egyptian revolution began in 2011, was a civil society movement. It wasn’t founded as a militant movement for martial resistance, nor was it founded as a political movement in order to take power. It was founded out of a civil impulse to reform society, in an age when colonialisation had radically altered society in Egypt. As the decades ensued, the MB went through various phases, and produced many offshoots – but in the main, the MB remained a civic-based organisation in Egypt.
After the 25th of January, the MB leadership had a choice: transform the movement into a political party – or remain as a movement. The choice had not been possible before due to political repression – but the consequences of that decision has repercussions not only for the MB. That movement’s influence has spread far beyond its members, and even Egypt.
Its unthinkable that MB members, as Egyptians, would not enter into electoral politics post January 25. But the way in which the MB leadership would try to shepherd that entrance has ensured a slew of tensions. The MB could have simply stayed out of electoral politics as the MB, and allowed MB members to form parties on their own, as they saw fit. If they had, there could have been at least 4 political parties that emanated from the movement, based on the different trends that exist within the MB at present.
Instead, the MB leadership went for control – and demanded that if any MB member wanted to be involved in the electoral process, they could do so only as a member of the official MB party: the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Otherwise, they could expect expulsion.