The Muslim Brotherhood has announced that it will not run a presidential candidate and will not seek a parliamentary majority in the coming elections. This announcement is being hailed as a sign of moderation, but it is no such thing.
The Muslim Brotherhood must know that if it were to assume power so quickly, there would be a military backlash. Much as the military in Turkey at one time (but no longer) was the guardian of secular society, so too the military in Egypt will be seen in the short run as the protector of secular Egyptian society. So long as the military is independent and strong, the Muslim Brotherhood must tread lightly.
Victor Davis Hanson makes the case that the Muslim Brotherhood will follow the Iranian model, with only a year or two needed to take control:
In other words, when the crowds go home and return to their jobs, the most zealous, organized, and ruthless will go to work to consolidate power. Let us hope for the best — a secular, pro-Western constitutional republic backed by a professional military — and prepare for the worst — two to three years of revolutionary fervor as Islamists, month by month, gain control of the Arab world’s largest state after coming to power by one man, one vote, one time.
I certainly don’t discount that things could move that quickly, particularly if there were some event which provided a trigger mechanism for a takeover.
But the Muslim Brotherhood’s announcement leads me to believe that it will follow the Turkish model, in which Islamist political parties over time gained influence over and ultimately control of the government, and used such power to purge the military of secular forces. While Turkey is not Iran, yet, the power center of secularism has been neutered.
If the transition in Egypt is not handled well, and if the more secular forces do not have time to organize and consolidate power in the coming years, the result will be an Islamist state.
Whether the Islamists in Egypt follow the Iranian or Turkish model really doesn’t matter. The end result will be the same.
Hopefully there will be a new model, the Egyptian model, with a very different result.