The Muslim Brotherhood and Stability in Egypt

The political extermination of the Muslim Brotherhood will by default operate as a divisive, centrifugal power in a society that needs consensus and political socialization.

The death sentence imposed on 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters risks bringing about two inter-connected, non-desired side-effects.


Egypt’s Sisi vows Muslim Brotherhood ‘will not exist.’ Credit: AFP / Getty

First to politically destabilize the country to an extent that a zero-sum game makes a civil war an unavoidable choice for the survival of Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

This will annul the gains and great expectations created by the Arab Spring process and the wish of Egyptian people to take on another course. If the sentence is executed it will be the biggest in Egypt’s modern history.

The second inter-connected side-effect of carrying the death sentence is that escalation of domestic conflict might eventually be the only means of survival for the Muslim Brotherhood.

As a result, “political stability” once again will be constructed on authoritarian practices that will bring the country back to the past. Those seeking ways to establish communication links between domestic players should avoid choices that make a domestic head-on collision a rational choice.

In terms of international human rights law the UN was rather clear in pinpointing violations and procedural setbacks during the trial and operational mode of domestic politics. As underpinned,

“The way forward should be determined by the people of Egypt themselves, in a manner that respects the full diversity of Egyptian political views. The Secretary-General notes that for such a process to succeed there is no place for retribution or for the exclusion of any major party or community.”

The extermination of political adversaries does not assist pluralism and political diversity. On the contrary, it is a choice that establishes a single-dimensional political order similar to the one overthrown by the Arab Spring revolution. Domestically it overturned an internal structure in order to create a new political order based on political diversity. Yet, the peculiarities of Egyptian politics have reproduced weaknesses that threaten today in essence the very raison d’etre of the Egyptian uprising.

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Upon the onset of the crisis United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on “the Egyptian authorities to carry out prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the killings, to make the findings public and to bring to justice those responsible in accordance with international human rights standards.”

During and after the trial phase Navi Pillay emphatically stated that the procedures had breached international human rights law.

The decision to impose stability through elimination of political opponents is a threat to Egypt and its future. According to a New York Times editorial the decision to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes a “political execution”, an evaluative judgment depicting a political reality and the strategy of Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

This choice does not assist democratic governance and representative democracy in a country deeply divided by political and religious issues. By nature transitional phases tend to bring about instability and a power vacuum. Orderly changes may provide incentives for all sides involved to avoid zero-sum thinking.

Yet, the political extermination of the Muslim Brotherhood will by default operate as a divisive, centrifugal power in a society that needs consensus and political socialization.

George Voskopoulos is Associate Professor of European Studies, University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece. Read other articles by George.