Egyptian Politician: 'The Brotherhood Knows the End Is Coming'

Egyptian fighter jets leave a heart-shaped smoke trail in the sky during a ceremony at a military base east of Cairo  on Monday.  Zoom
AP

Egyptian fighter jets leave a heart-shaped smoke trail in the sky during a ceremony at a military base east of Cairo on Monday.

Egypt has been shaken by daily clashes since the recent coup. In an interview, leftist Egyptian politician Mamduoh Habashi explains why the military intervention was good for the country and his belief that the Muslim Brotherhood is on its way out.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Habashi, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the toppling of Mohammed Morsi a "serious setback for democracy." How would you describe it?

Mamduoh Habashi: Mr. Westerwelle has a different understanding of democracy than I do. For me, democracy is the will of the people, and this blatantly manifested itself in a tremendous mass movement, the largest Egypt has ever seen. For Westerwelle, on the other hand, democracy appears to be something purely formal. For him, this has solely to do with the 2012 vote, despite the fact that the presidential election at the time was anything but clean.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were the elections manipulated?

Habashi: Definitely. First, there was no real election oversight. Every institution was controlled by the military, and the army very much wanted to prevent a representative of the revolution from being elected. With candidates like (Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister) Ahmed Shafiq and Morsi, they thought the things would tilt in their favor. Additionally, the Islamists invested a lot of money in the campaign and bought votes. No other political group could keep up.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But internationally the elections were seen as exemplary.

Habashi: Most Egyptians felt they had been cheated out of their revolution, but they still accepted Morsi's victory. It wasn't a clear victory, though. Morsi had only a razor thin majority. His presidency was characterized by unbelievable arrogance and audacity. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood paid even less attention to the people's hardships than Mubarak.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And that's why the military had to intervene on July 3?

Habashi: The Egyptian military did what it had to do. There was no other option, because millions of people wanted the Brotherhood to be stripped of power. What was the alternative -- to look on as democracy was undermined and destroyed? Do you know what people here say? They compare it to the purchase of preserved food that is supposed to last for four years. Imagine opening up the can to find that after just half a year, it has gone bad. What would you do? Eat it anyway or throw out the can?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the same time, since Morsi was ousted there have been fresh protests and attacks. Egypt has become more dangerous.

Habashi: Of course, many Islamists are radicalizing and turning to violence. That doesn't mean, however, that the country is sinking into chaos. The Muslim Brotherhood's popularity is sinking rapidly. Morsi supporters have never gotten more than 100,000 people onto the streets, whereas his opponents have drawn several million.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does the Muslim Brotherhood still believe it can turn the tide in its favor?

Habashi: No, the leaders of the Brotherhood know the end is coming. At a certain point, they will negotiate with the interim government and the military, but first they want to get as much out of it as they can.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Europeans and the Americans have called on both sides to reconcile. Do you see any chance of this happening?

Habashi: What kind of reconciliation are we talking about? The Islamists are hardly interested in any kind of sustainable reconciliation. They are digging in their heels, unwilling to let go of their totalitarian ideology. A non-secular state according to Islamist ideology, which would inevitably discriminate against those with other religious beliefs, can never be a democratic one. The mainstream media often refer to the post-apartheid struggle in South Africa in this context. But the example is totally wrong. In South Africa, the white minority very clearly renounced its apartheid policies. That was the absolute prerequisite for reconciliation. The Muslim Brotherhood lacks that kind of insight.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You referred to the fact that, initially at least, the Brotherhood and the military cooperated successfully. What went wrong?

Habashi: The military leadership and the Muslim Brotherhood had a clear deal stipulating that the generals would maintain all privileges and would not have to answer to any institution and that, in turn, the Islamists would be allowed to rule the country as they saw fit. At first, both sides upheld the deal. But as dissatisfaction with Morsi grew, the military could not remain inactive.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: After the downfall of Mubarak, revolutionaries had significant difficulties dealing with the military council. Why do you think things will go better this time?

Habashi: The military leadership has no interest in actually ruling the country. They would prefer to leave that to others. In 2011, they had no choice, because there actually was a power vacuum left behind after they sacrificed Mubarak and his clique. However, I will admit that the current revolt is comprised not only of revolutionaries, but also of members of the old regime. The coalition against Morsi spans from leftists to liberals to nationalists and right up to important military officials.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In other words, the interim government currently in place is partly made up of the very individuals who were the target of protests in 2011.

Habashi: Yes, the interim government clearly is not a product of the revolution. However, it still represents a huge leap forward because we can expect that it will uphold the rule of law. And it is comprised of experts who truly understand something about economics, justice and agriculture. I anticipate that the most pressing problems will be addressed. There is hope again -- and there wasn't any during Morsi's last days.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you think it is right that Morsi is still being detained at an undisclosed location? The European Union is demanding his release.

Habashi: Public prosecutors are still investigating him. At issue is the case of a jailbreak that the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood was also involved in. There are even eyewitness reports. And that is just one of many allegations. There are lists establishing how Morsi's minions were given real estate either for free or at rock-bottom prices. But of course court procedures against Morsi also have to be fair and transparent. The justice system cannot be used to exact revenge.

Interview conducted by Daniel Steinvorth

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1. Mr. Habashi, what part of the phrase “No” you do not understand?
titus_norberto 07/26/2013
Non sequitur, according to Habashi the election was not fair because it was controlled by the military…. It makes no sense the military organizing and executing a Coup D’etat à la Pinochet just one year later… It is very difficult to believe that USA who generously contributes about 1 billion US dollar annually to the military would have NOT given the OK in ADVANCE for the Coup… Certainly the NSA, the CGHQ and the Tempora project et al missed that NOISY fact…
2. I see it in a different way
dr.alhenawy 07/26/2013
I'm really sorry to read such an interview full of lies and groundless claims. First of all, the presidential election was clean and fair as witnessed by the international community and its organizations. This fact cannot be forged because someone is on purpose unable to comprehend the situation; someone who seeks a customized democracy defined by serving interests. Second, the supports of democracy and the establishment of a real institutional state who sit-in many squares all over Egypt are counted by millions reported by aljazeera as all other oppositional media have banned without a court decision as one step towards the new defined democracy! Morsi supports are not only MB but many Egyptian citizens who are against the dictatorship and the military coup. If MB was a bad politician, there was many legitimate options to get them out of power keeping the country constitution as well as the elected councils. The idea was not MB and its performance, it was how to retrieve and hold the corrupted system by getting all power on one man's hand so they can negotiate and blackmail him. Finally, the Egyptian public prosecutor "the coup prosecutor" denies that Mr. Morsi is being investigated and the army spokesman emphasizes several time that Mr. Morsi is being "hold" for his "safety". What happened in Egypt is a clear coup and set back for the county to 1952.
3. One Side of the Story!
spon-facebook-10000049869 08/01/2013
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Habashi, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the toppling of Mohammed Morsi a "serious setback for democracy." How would you describe it? Yes, even more a slaughter. SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were the elections manipulated? Yes, they were manipulated at the last stage when the military found out that Mursy actually won the elections. They delayed the announcement of the results for a good two weeks, hoping that the pro Mursy rallies on the streets would calm down, but the contrary happened and real revolutionary powers joined them like "6th April Movement", "Revolutionary Socialists", and "Ultras". So,they had to give in partially. Mursy had no power though over the Military and Sometimes no power over the police, which was clearly seen in Port Said where the Army couldn't maintain a night curfew and when Policemen went killing people randomly during a funeral of an Anti Mubarak protestor. SPIEGEL ONLINE: But internationally the elections were seen as exemplary. Mubarak's Media which has been controlled by Secret Police and still started a campaign against Mursy and the Brotherhood. They undermined all his achievements, and magnified all his downfalls to the people till they completely ruined his popularity. Enough evidence is Media Blackout regarding 500 killed and 7,000 wounded and thousands more prisoned now. They don't even lift a finger to call for freedom of Press when most of pro Legitimacy leftiest editors are banned now from writing in favor of democracy. SPIEGEL ONLINE: And that's why the military had to intervene on July 3? Unfortunately, even liberals and seculars gave up their basic principals when they couldn't win any elections or affect any referendums six times from March 2011 till November 2012. They lost parliamentery elections in the two chambers, and constitutional referendums and above all presidential elections. They called for the army to remove an opponent who was a pain in the back. If 200,000 from the "Tea Party" gathered in front of the White House in America asking for ousting of Obama, will that be enough reason to ask the military to interevene?? SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the same time, since Morsi was ousted there have been fresh protests and attacks. Egypt has become more dangerous. Yes, but even most famous World Journals get the wrong side of the Story. They always write it as several protesters fell dead in clashes between supporters and opponents of Mursy, but as an Eye Witness and ready to provide thousands of other Eye Witnesses, it was always brutal attacks from Military and Police against peaceful protesters. Security Forces dressed as civilians always attack Mursy & Legitimacy supporters to scare women and children. Some were even shoot dead with snipers. SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does the Muslim Brotherhood still believe it can turn the tide in its favor? Yes, and they have already done that by stickking to non-violent methods of bringing down a dictator-ship described in books like Gene Sharp's.
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  • Privat
    Mamdouh Habashi, 60, is an architect and a co-founder of the Socialist Party of Egypt. During the 1970s, he studied in Berlin. He has remained politically active ever since, having served as the vice president of the World Forum for Alternatives (WFA) and as a member of the board of the Arab-African Research Center in Cairo.

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