The Muslim Brotherhood have made several mistakes since the January 25 Revolution. This article will highlight the seven great "sins" that have contributed to the present situation – the dissolving of the People’s Assembly (the lower house of parliament) and the presidential elections, which have narrowed down the presidential candidates to two, neither of which are wanted by many Egyptians.
If Egypt had followed the right path, like Tunisia, the situation might be different.
The blame for the current dilemma in Egypt is shared by the Brotherhood and other forces, although the main share of the blame lies with the Brotherhood. Their behaviour since the revolution can be characterised by naivety, arrogance, greed and lack of political experience and political imagination.
Firstly, the Brotherhood and other Islamists fell into the Constitutional Declaration trap on 19 March last year. They encouraged their supporters to vote in favour of the referendum to amend the constitution and it turned into a religious war between Islamists, led by the Brotherhood, and Coptic Christians, led by the Church. They should have stood firm with other voices in demanding a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution.
Secondly, the Brotherhood controls their political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Although leaders and members of the group and the party assured me that they are separate entities, and they only "coordinate" with each other, all signs point to the opposite.
For example, it was Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood Supreme Guide, who announced that Mohamed Mursi would continue his candidacy in the presidential elections after the High Constitutional Court decided against the People’s Assembly, which resulted in its dissolution. This announcement should have come from the party. Mursi is the Brotherhood's candidate, rather than the FJP's. Furthermore, the party follows the same rules which govern the Brotherhood.
Thirdly, they tried to control the majority of the People's Assembly committees. They nominated 15 out of 19 chairs of those committees. Mohamed El-Beltagi, a leading Brotherhood and FJP figure, told me that they had made concessions and put forward 12 nominees to chair 12 committees.
It was not how many candidates they nominated, but their attitude of domination. This process resulted in the Brotherhood controlling the majority of those committees. The transitional period requires consensus and coalition, rather than domination and exclusion.
Fourthly, their position on Kamal El-Ganzouri, the current prime minister, was controversial and reflected their narrow-minded approach to politics. They accepted and celebrated his premiership, even though he worked with Mubarak. They often announce their opposition to working with elements of the ousted regime. Then after some of their demands were not met by the government, such as to appoint a number of Brotherhood members and supporters to the interior ministry and other government departments, they tried to use the vote of confidence to get rid of this government. They failed, since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is the only apparatus that has the right to change cabinets.
Fifthly, they used the parliament to issue laws that benefit the group and the party. For example, they issued the Disenfranchisement Law against Ahmed Shafiq and Omar Soliman, who are part of the old regime. They could have issued this law before the announcement of the presidential election date. They failed to focus on the real concerns of ordinary people. To a large extent, they used the parliament to achieve their own interests.
Sixthly, they tried to control the formation of the Constituent Assembly in March, when they selected the majority of the members, and it was then dissolved by the High Administrative Court. They did not learn the lesson and they tried again to dominate the Assembly when they disputed with other forces that the representatives of Al-Azhar and the Church were part of the 50 per cent non-Islamist camp. They contributed to dividing Egypt between Islamists and non-Islamists. Other forces played a role in that division and tension, but the Brotherhood were the most responsible.
Finally, they were trapped by the SCAF into nominating two presidential candidates. It was the peak of their foolishness and lack of experience. They did not keep up their promise not to nominate a candidate. They lost their credibility amongst some of their supporters and confirmed others’ suspicions about them. In addition, they had a golden opportunity to get more popularity and credibility by supporting outsiders among the symbols of the January Revolution. They missed this chance as they missed others in their history. The trap was set and they fell into it.
In brief, the Brotherhood lacked the wisdom and the political imagination to play the political game at this critical moment in Egyptian history. They will compete again in the new parliamentary elections and they might not get the same number of seats. They handed the SCAF an opportunity to choose the Constituent Assembly and to regain legislative powers. Their presidential candidate might lose the race to be a president, and even if he wins, he will be constrained by the SCAF. Their mistakes, which are considered by some commentators to be sins, have played a negative role in the transitional period that will affect the future of democracy and stability in Egypt.