Numbers (Aboul Fotouh Again!)

A very successful American politician once remarked that all of politics is about coalitions and numbers. Egypt is still finding its way through open popular politics. But it is useful to remember this adage, especially for liberals, secularists and Copts who feel overwhelmed by the MB/Salafi Juggernaut.

The numbers are simple. Twice in one year it was shown clearly that the MB/Salafi grouping has 75% of the popular vote, while 25% belongs to a combination of liberal Muslims and Copts. We simply need to accept that as a fact.

The coalition part is a little trickier. For the 25% not to be marginalized they need to nearly double their number. They can only do so by attracting from their opposition, the current 75%. The MB has handed the 25% a golden opportunity to reach out, show political maturity and build a coalition. First of all, you only build coalitions with people you do not agree with on all aspects of governance. But you must have enough agreement on major aspects. Second, coalition building requires discipline and realism. The next President of Egypt will be an Islamist of some stripe (barring a return to military dictatorship). It is only a question of whom. The MB are relying on the obedience of their 50% of the vote plus enough Salafis to put El-Shater over the top (50%) in round 1. That scenario must be prevented at all costs. Another scenario that must be prevented is a runoff between El-Shater and another candidate, such as Moussa or Shafiq or Abo Ismael. El-Shater will win in all cases.  The 25% can not be quixotic and throw its vote toward an “ideal” secular candidate. Backing Aboul Fotouh, with all his shortcomings, will enable him to get to round 2 against El-Shater, but only if they do so in bulk. If he wins, then great! The MB was a dealt a solid blow and a new winning coalition of the decent has been established, for the betterment of Egypt. If he loses, then he will likely lose narrowly, again establishing an excellent coalition for “next year”, and denying the MB a mandate to run rough-shod over its opponents. In both cases, the MB will suffer fissures. It is good for Egypt not to have a single monolithic, secretive,  cult-like political power. This has been a dark shadow over Egypt for eight decades.

The 25% are in a tough spot. They need to be ruthless, realistic, principled and disciplined all at the same time. They need to do what is right for their country, over what feels good or satisfies their most cherished desires. And they need to get into the habit of winning.

And they need to show up bright and early on election day, happy and singing, in big numbers and in lockstep. And remember that chant, “Ahom, Ahom, Ahom, El-Masryeen Ahom!”



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