The Muslim Brotherhood Won an Election, but Is It Really Democratic?
In the stultifying, 100-plus-degree heat of Tahrir Square on Sunday, where tens of thousands gathered to hear the results of Egypt’s first relatively free presidential election, the sweaty, and occasionally fainting, masses were morbidly grim. Many in the Islamist-dominant crowd were convinced that Egypt’s military junta would anoint former prime minister Ahmed Shafik the next president, and they anticipated deadly confrontation with security forces immediately thereafter. Towards the south end of the Square, dozens of Islamists marched in lines of two carrying cloths meant to represent shrouds. “We are ready to die like the martyrs before us,” one of them told me, referring to the approximately 800 people who died in last year’s uprising. “This is my coffin,” said another, pointing to the cloth in his hands. “We win or we die.”
Of course, after a painfully long speech by the presidential elections commission chairman, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi was declared Egypt’s next president, and massive celebrations soon enveloped downtown Cairo. But the mood of Tahrir Square before this announcement—most of all, the rampant talk of death—suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies were not prepared to accept any other outcome. They were either going to win the presidency outright, or fight for it via other means. In other words, although the Brotherhood won this election democratically, we shouldn’t conclude that it is a truly democratic organization.