Listening to ShafiqPosted: June 3, 2012
Regardless of how you feel about Shafiq, his speech today showed that the brains behind his campaign are savvy indeed. It was a good performance, even by the standards of a practiced democracy such as the United States. It is clear now what his campaign strategy is:
1- Define yourself clearly otherwise your opponent will do it for you.
2- Attack your opponent’s strength, not his weakness. The MB has always claimed that its defining strength is that they opposed the regime and were free of corruption. Shafiq basically accused them of being part of the regime’s staged elections and that at their core they are schemers and scammers. It was a good piece of political Jusitsu.
3- Respect your electorate, even if they are not wealthy or educated, as capable of making decisions about their self interest. You are not going to get a man or a woman’s vote without asking for it with respect. His argument is that if the MB is seeking your vote through a Kilo of sugar, I will seek it through promises of prosperity. He also seems to understand that Egyptians have always yearned for respect, and the revolution has only increased that yearning. By portraying the MB as patronizing he landed a solid blow. Also, explain to the average man how you will be his champion, fix every pothole in his life.
4- In a polarized election it is better to be polarizing, as long as your come away with the bigger share.
5- Play clever block politics. All you need is 51%. First solidify your 25% by being unambiguous about who you are. Second, do not waste any effort reaching out to those who will never vote for you (Mursi’s 25%). That will only weaken your case. Moussa’s 10% are yours anyway. Now you need 15%. Aboul Fotouh voters are not where you should go shopping. Sabahi’s voters are a better hunting ground. He did well even in MB districts by emphasizing concern for the common man and dignity (Karama is his party’s name after all). Play the same game. If you get 1/2 of his voters you are in.
6- Be a counter-puncher. Do not rush to the square the minute after Mubarak is sentenced with your shirt untucked proclaiming you are man of the revolution. Wait to the next day and land a blow. In politics and boxing the last man to throw a punch wins. The MB has gone full-bore for two back-to-back elections. Their last full mobilization got them 25% of the vote. There is no gain in a nuanced approach toward the MB. Throw the electoral kitchen sink at them.
The sympathetic Egyptian revolutionaries need to learn a few lessons from the last 18 months. Before you can steer Egypt to the right direction you need to have you hand on the wheel. That means winning elections (if you believe in Democracy) and gaining the trust of the average man. The mantle of moral nobility is not assumed by losing nor discarded by winning. Egyptian intellectuals and revolutionaries often seem like French intellectuals on a talk show. That is probably not the path to electoral strength in a genuine Egyptian democracy.
If the MB collective was listening to Shafiq today they would be wise to realize that their path to power got alot more complicated.