Muslim Brotherhood - 2000-2001 Elections
Despite massive arrests, trial and imprisonment of respected Brotherhood leaders, the organization continued. After the government's targeting of the Brotherhood in 1994 and 1995, the organization effectively went underground until 2000 when some of the top young leaders were released from prison. One academic argued that the Brotherhood had to show its face to survive. "They had no choice. They needed to prove that the crackdown has not broken them and that they continue to exist as a viable movement." Despite the pre-election crackdown, the Brotherhood provided disciplined support to its candidates in the fall 2000 PA elections, unlike other parties including the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
Despite internal tensions and imprisonment since the mid-1990's of the most dynamic of its young leaders, the Brotherhood enjoyed an upsurge in popularity, winning 17 People's Assembly (PA) seats in the fall 2000 elections, albeit as independent candidates, and a return to the board of the Bar Syndicate in February 2001 elections. Despite an intensive campaign of arrests and harassment, of 40 Brotherhood independent candidates for the PA, 17 won seats. In the lawyers' syndicate elections Brotherhood candidates won 8 of 24 seats on the board.
The Brotherhood supported about 40 candidates who ran as independents in the 2000 elections for the People's Assembly (lower house of parliament). Of the 444 elected seats, 17 went to Muslim Brother independents. Eighty percent of the Muslim Brothers elected were under the age of 45. The vast divide between aged and youth members was perhaps most pronounced in 1996 when young Brotherhood leaders joined with other non-Brotherhood political centrists to seek approval for a Wassat (center) party. Wassat was not approved by the government's political parties committee, but the young Brotherhood's rebellious actions led to a rift within the Brotherhood structure. According to one Islamist expert, "for the first time in recollection, Brotherhood leadership and its centralized organizational structure came under fire from rank and file members."
By the year 2000, most leaders of the Brotherhood appeared to fall into either "hawk" or "dove" camps. Supreme guide Meshhour represented the old guard, the more "hawkish" leadership, revolutionaries reared during the colonial period, some accused of violent acts. He claimed the government fears the fact that the Brotherhood was a "well-organized entity" rather than an advocate of violence. Some observers believed both the generation gap and the difference in views and tactics had been sources of contention between the hawks and the doves within the organization. The hawks included Meshhour, Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoun el Hodeibi, Abbas el Sissi and Mahmoud Ezzat Ibrahim, sometimes mentioned as a possible successor to Meshhour. Other hard liners include Abdel Moneim Abdul Futuh, Secretary General of the Physicians' Syndicate; Mohamed el Sayed Habib, former MP and professor at Sssiyut University; and Mohamed Mahdi Akef, former head of the Islamic Center in Munich.
Brotherhood independents elected to the PA in the Fall of 2000 tried briefly to coexist with the government, but the effort was short-lived. By Spring 2001, the Brotherhood had taken on key government ministers during PA sessions and have aroused public sentiment with their strong anti-government positions on domestic and regional issues, particularly those relating to israel and strident support for the Palestinians. The government responded, making clear that it, not the Brotherhood, is setting the political agenda.
They gained one-third (8) of the board seats in the Egyptian bar syndicate in its first elections since 1992. They continued to have significant influence in all Egyptian labor and professional syndicates, many holding seats on union boards frozen for that very reason by the government in 1996. While no Brotherhood popularity polls had been conducted, estimates that they could gain 20 to 30 percent of parliamentary seats in a free and fair election seemed plausible.
In the fall 2000 PA elections and again in the Bar Syndicate in February 2001, the Brotherhood demonstrated better organization and more party discipline than other parties and candidates. A former director of state security told "Rose el Youssef" magazine on 21 April 2001 that the victory of the Brotherhood in the PA elections "was not a result of their strength in propagating their ideology, but (was) a result of the passiveness and lack of organization of other forces on the political scene." NDP and opposition party officials came to the same realization. Islamic and secular intellectuals doubted that, were the Brotherhood to gain a significant number of seats in the parliament, that they would be reelected to second terms, because they had no meaningful message. The government prevented them from running in the Shura Council (upper house) elections held May 16-June 12, 2001, by arresting candidates and supporters in pre-election sweeps, a re-play of steps taken before the PA elections. Of a possible 20 independent Brotherhood candidates, only one remained by election time to run for a shura council seat. He did not win. The success of the Brotherhood when it was permitted to run was due in part to the inability of the ruling and opposition parties to organize or improve party discipline and to put forward popular candidates.
The electoral victory of the Muslim Brothers in the fall 2000 elections represented a challenge to the government. The Brotherhood was an illegal but de facto bloc in the parliament. Initially, Brotherhood parliamentarians seemed to play the government's game. Observers speculated that a truce of sorts had been declared between the Brotherhood and state security. Under what Brotherhood MP Hamdi Hassan termed a policy of "objective opposition" (to government policies), he told al-Ahram newspaper, "the Brotherhood's deputies called into question the state's publishing three "pornographic" books, which were consequently withdrawn to avoid a potentially damaging debate." He added that the Brotherhood did not object to the Prime Minister's 22 January 2001 government policy statement. "We wanted to give the impression that the (Brotherhood) presence... Should not trigger excessive fears. (Our) presence does really go in favor of democracy and not against it..."
However, on 21 april 2001, the 17 Brotherhood MP's stormed out of parliament, protesting the speaker's refusal to give them the floor to raise the issue of arrest of 2 Brotherhood Shura Council candidates. Following this confrontation, the Brotherhood bloc submitted to the speaker a long list of questions "embarrassing" to the government, according to one parliamentary reporter. They call upon the government to cancel the "Miss Egypt" pageant; question the morality of an article in the state-owned film magazine, "The Stars"; accused the Minister of Interior of ignoring violence in the schools; and requested parliamentary sessions pause regularly for prayers. Targeted ministers included the powerful Ministers of Agriculture Youssef Waly, of Information Safwat Sherif, and Culture Minister Farouq Hosni. They continued to garner public support with tirades against the government, corruption, and against Education Minister Baha Eddin for reassigning thousands of teachers to administrative positions because they were Brotherhood supporters at a time when the rate of illiteracy and lack of education were profound social concerns.
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