By Umar Khan.
As pro-Morsi demonstrations enter their fourth week in Egypt with often deadly consequences, the impact of events there on . . .[restrict]Libyan politics becomes ever clearer with different groups taking sides and divisions emerging. The ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has made Islamists elsewhere hesitant about the democratic process and unsettled the already fragile ‘political Islam’. Those who were once cautiously willing to adopt democracy now question its value.
The coup in Egypt, viewed by around the world as an ambush on the Islamists’ mandate, has given a new push to the anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment in the region and its set to affect Libya’s existing political scenario. The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice & Construction Party is having a tough time countering accusations not only about its link to Libyan Brotherhood but to the Botherhood in general from the day of its formation.
There have even been allegations that it takes order from the Brotherhood’s supreme guide in Egypt, undermining the sovereignty of Libya.
The events in Egypt gave rise to new calls for an end to the existing political system in Libya and replacing it with a crisis government. There were different suggestions in consideration by those supporting the dismissal of Islamist-dominated General National Congress (GNC). However, the wider Islamist circle along with other opposition groups came out in support, holding demonstrations and issuing statements on a number of occasions. There is a consensus among different groups that Libya needs stability and it cannot be achieved by dissolving GNC despite all its shortcomings.
Many in Libya support Morsi because he was elected president and they think that that should be respected both in itself and in setting a healthy precedent in a country where democracy is only as old as Morsi’s administration. They say it is the same reason that they went on the streets to support Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s government a few months ago.
However, not all agree with this view. Gharyan Congressman Muhammed Toumi is one who does not.
Toumi is a member of the National Front Party (NFP), a liberal, progressive party. He thinks that recent events in Egypt are internal matters and the decision of the people there should be respected. “With millions on the street, you cannot label it a coup,” he said. “It showed how the Muslim Brotherhood is not fit to lead a country. They had the presidency for one year. They could have proved others wrong by delivering on the promises they made. But they failed and now people have rejected them.”
He thinks that this will affect the Libyan Muslim Brotherhhod deeply, who already are not trusted by the public. “The Muslim Brotherhhod is considered an international organisation and there is already a feeling in the people that Libyan Brotherhood takes its orders from Egypt. The Libyan people want only patriots who respect sovereignty of their country,” said Toumi adding, “the Brotherhood always want to project themselves as victims and it is no different now.”
The expected yet sudden collapse of Morsi’s rule has sent a disturbing message to Islamists across the region. They were already suspicious of recent events in the area and were discussing new ways to consolidate their foothold in the post-dictatorship period. One answer was the Awareness campaign on the streets to directly connect with the bulk of the. Having hoped to secure political control through the democratic process, relying on street power, they now face a dilemma on which route to take. This not only threatens stability of the country but also risk the progress made so far.
Salim Betmal, political wing head of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Construction Party (J&C) thinks that events in Egypt highlight double standards of many that otherwise champion democracy. He said,: “Despite the wrong decisions of President Morsi, this is not how you deal with a democratically-elected leader. This sets a very dangerous precedent in the region. Many influential people were discussing with groups that were against the very idea of elections, to join the democratic process and leave violence. But now they refer to the Egyptian example and ask how being democratically elected would change anything?”
Betmal thinks that “the Egyptian Coup” will affect the whole region but that the chances of the same scenario being repeated in Libya are non-existent. “This has also affected the formation of security institutions as many (fighters) are going back to their brigades thinking counter-revolutionary forces might try to repeat the same Egyptian scenario”, he said. “But the situation is totally different in Libya where power is not in the hands of one group or another.”
The direct effect on the ground is a uniform response from most Islamists questioning their approach towards the ballot box. The Islamists now increasingly point to double standards and selective democracy – and cite the examples of Algeria, Palestine and now Egypt. How interested they were in democracy is not clear but some disillusioned groups have resorted to reactivating their former brigades while for others this has reinforced their stand against democracy.
In Libya, both leaders and the people remain divided over the Egyptian events and it certainly has seriously complicated matter for religious parties. Some leaders that were part of negotiations in encouraging groups to join the democratic process now fear their arguments will not carry the same weight. One sheikh recently said: “This has emboldened some groups that consider the whole democratic process a waste of time and we fear that they might go after those that support it. On the other hand, some armed groups are now holding onto their weapons even tighter thinking if coup in Egypt succeeds it might start a whole season of counter revolutions.” [/restrict]