Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has “smartly positioned itself as a voice for the poor” in the run-up to this month’s elections.
“For the first time, Egypt’s Islamist powerhouse is able to campaign openly under a new party banner,” Leila Fadel reports, “and it is using its long-standing charity networks to gain an edge over more liberal and secular candidates ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled to begin in two weeks.”
But despite its professed commitment to democratic values, the Islamist group has not taken kindly to criticism that its Eid holiday distribution of 1.5 million kilos of meat to several million Egyptians is a form of electoral bribery.
Ed Husain, now a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, has evidently hit a nerve.
I was not the only observer questioning this malpractice by Islamists. Al-Ahram, Al-Arabiya, Al-Masry Al-Youm, and even the Washington Post brought the story to light. Egyptian tweep Dalia Ezzat took the Brotherhood to task on Twitter. On the ground in Cairo, former Carnegie scholar, and now a liberal parliamentary candidate, Amr Hamzawy complained in public.
The Brotherhood has joined Egypt’s military rulers in attacking the transparent provision of democracy assistance to civil society groups. But if Egypt’s political forces are to compete on a level playing field, at least two questions should be answered, Husain suggests:
The Brotherhood claims to be transparent and democratic: when will it divulge its assets and finances? Only then can we, objectively, contrast it with the new political players who are struggling to mobilize. More importantly, when will the policy debate on jobs, housing, education, and health begin in earnest in Egypt? That way, candidates can compete on ideas, not by buying votes with “charity.”