Saturday, 22 October 2016

Trump, Rigged Elections, and the Muslim Brotherhood


Listening to Donald Trump whip up his supporters with warnings about rigged elections and a rigged system, and hearing him threaten that mayhem might ensue if he does not win, evokes a shocking sense of deja vu. But not in America. In Egypt. 
When Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was running for the first contested presidential election in Egypt, a year after the January 25 revolution, he also claimed that the elections would be rigged against him, and that the entire system of the deep state was rigged against him, and that his supporters would "set fire to the country" if he did not win. Given the history of Egyptian elections, Morsi, arguably, could make a more plausible case than Donald Trump. 
But Trump echoes Morsi in even more unsettling ways. The Muslim Brotherhood leader also fed  the anger, frustration and fear of his base and validated their sense of economic and political disenfranchisement in a country ruled by cosmopolitan elites. Morsi, like Trump, was clearly unqualified and inexperienced to govern, but made a virtue of being an "outsider" against an ultimate insider opponent. Like Trump, he warned of dark conspiracies and declared he could trust no one but his own "people." And crucially, like Trump, he appealed to xenophobia and  religious bigotry against minorities. 
Morsi won, narrowly. Some put it down to the protest vote. A significant proportion of those who voted for him could not abide his Muslim Brotherhood but also could not bring themselves to vote for his opponent, a military establishment figure who represented the Mubarak ancien regime on steroids- it would have meant repudiating the revolution they fought for. Another significant proportion could not bring themselves to vote for either candidate and stayed home. 
Morsi won, but the backlash from his supporters came anyway, a year later, when a million people went into the streets to demand the removal of his inept and autocratic government, and the military responded with a coup. Morsi diehards felt robbed of their "democratically elected" president and were encouraged by the Muslim Brotherhood leaders to occupy a major square in Cairo and camp out there in protest, by the thousands, men, women, and children, for several months, Waco style. It  took a bloody confrontation with the forces of order to root them out: a thousand Morsi supporters perished.
That could never happen in America. But then again, this entire election campaign year could never happen, except that it just did. Foreign observers offering to supervise the legitimacy of US elections is only the latest outrage dragging America down into banana republic territory. Could a protest vote against an establishment figure bring about a default victory for a racist, bigoted, unqualified showman? And if he lost, could he bear to be a "loser" or would he try to blame rigged elections and encourage his supporters to sow mayhem?

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