Politics and the Brotherhood in the Mubarak Era

Throughout the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood grew into a major player on the Egyptian political scene. The Mubarak regime was tolerant toward the Muslim Brotherhood, but had also established boundaries for how far the group could go without experiencing crackdowns, and the Brotherhood remained a banned organization. Until the Supreme Court ruled the Party List electoral system unconstitutional, the Muslim Brothers had to participate in parliamentary elections through joining a party on the list of recognized political parties. In 1984, they ran under the auspices of the Al-Wafd Party. The alliance between the Al-Wafd Party and the Brotherhood obtained a little over 15% of the vote, or 58 seats, of which 8 went to Brotherhood candidates. In 1987, the Brotherhood formed a united front with the Labor and Liberal parties. The alliance won 17% of the vote, or 56 seats, 36 of which were occupied by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite the non-confrontational approach that the Brotherhood has adopted in their dealings with the government, a confrontation surfaced during the 1990s over the group’s position toward Egypt’s participation in the second Gulf War to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The professional associations controlled by the Brotherhood issued statements against the military intervention led by the United States. The Dashour Earthquake of October 1992 which occurred south of Cairo represented another opportunity for the Brotherhood to show its capacity for serving the Egyptian people. The ineptness of the state’s response was contrasted with the speed and efficiency of Brotherhood organizations in creating shelters, health clinics, schools, and providing food, clothing, and cash for the victims.

The government responded with a crackdown, included raiding offices of Muslim Brotherhood businessmen, rounding up their leaders, interfering in elections of students unions to prevent the Muslim Brothers candidates from running, and passing the 1993 union law which froze the boards of professional unions that the Brotherhood controlled and put them under an appointed administrative board. This law stipulated that union elections require half the members to vote to be considered valid, (the Muslim Brothers had won the boards of a number of professional unions with less than half the members voting). This crackdown was justified as a response to the increasing terrorist activities of the 1990s; the regime did not distinguish between the various political groups which formed under and Islamic banner so as to justify its crackdowns as targeting Islamic militants.

Next: Electoral Success and the 2007 Platform