The Brothers are no fools. They realized that rapidly held elections would favor them, and if they won big, they’d have a hammerlock on the constituent assembly that would write the constitution. They also grasped the disdain in which the West, under progressive regimes, holds military governments. They’d watched how their Islamist ally, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had leveraged American and European pressure to beat down his military — the pro-Western opposition to his anti-Western Islamic supremacism. The Brotherhood knew the U.S. and the EU would be similarly — and self-destructively — supportive of a call for quick elections that would pressure Egypt’s reigning military junta to cede authority to a “democratic” civilian government.
Consequently, the Brothers insisted that parliamentary and presidential elections could proceed promptly if the public just approved a handful of amendments to the current constitution, with a new constitution to be drafted afterwards.
As is its wont, the Brotherhood was deceitful about its intentions. To arm their Western apologists and assuage those Egyptians who might think a new government’s constitution should be in place before the new government is elected, the Brothers swore up and down that they understood constitutions are different from ordinary legislation. To be legitimate, they soothingly agreed, a nation’s fundamental law must reflect a consensus of the whole society — guaranteeing the rights of women and religious minorities. Beyond that, though, the Islamist campaign over the referendum portrayed secular democratic opponents of the amendments as “enemies of Islam” and “enemies of the revolution” who secretly supported the old regime and its Zionist allies.
When the votes were counted, it was a rout. The Brotherhood’s amendments were adopted by a margin of 78 to 22 percent. With the handwriting on the wall that the referendum would blow the cheery “Arab Spring” narrative to smithereens, the Western media ignored it. Once the numbers were in, they dismissed it. The historic vote, we were told, was just a hyper-technical matter to determine when elections would be scheduled — move along, nothing else to see here. But in fact, the amendments referendum foreshadowed today’s Islamist Winter. It exactly tracked the nearly four-to-one margin by which the Brotherhood and its Salafist allies would swamp the secular democrats in the parliamentary elections that followed.
The Brothers being the Brothers, they lied at each stage of the game. In the amendments referendum, they lied about their commitment to societal “consensus”; upon winning, they elbowed the democrats aside and infused the draft constitution with sharia principles. When they got their quick elections, they lied about how many seats they would seek in parliament, again to assuage those worried about Islamist control of the government. In going back on that commitment, they promised that they would not field a candidate for president. But once overwhelming control of parliament was secured, they reneged on that promise, too — announcing the candidacy of their charismatic leader, Khairat al-Shater.
Mind you, all of that happened before you ever heard of Mohamed Morsi. He is an afterthought: the Plan B the Brothers came up with when Shater — Morsi’s mentor and patron — was elbowed out of the race in the panicked military junta’s last gasp. While Morsi basks in the spotlight, you should know that Shater is the power behind the throne because he is the avatar of sharia. He is the author of the Brotherhood’s announced “Islamic Renaissance” plan, which the Western media continue to ignore. As Spring Fever recounts, however, here is how Shater proclaimed the Brotherhood’s objective in April 2011, right after the Islamist victory in the amendments referendum:
You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s religion on earth, to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda [i.e., the Renaissance] of the ummah [i.e., the notional global Muslim nation] and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugate people to God on earth.
Morsi accidentally happened into notoriety because he is a true believer and a faithful Shater servant. In fact, before Shater was excluded from presidential contention, Morsi was a constant presence at his side, introduced at rallies as an “architect” of Shater’s “Renaissance” plan. His principal task as president has been to get a new sharia constitution across the finish line.
That is why he claimed dictatorial powers last week: not to aggrandize himself further but to shield the constituent assembly from being de-commissioned by judges. Unlike Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for a decade, Morsi has not yet been in power long enough to change the complexion of Egypt’s judiciary. It is still filled with Mubarak-era appointees and, to the extent the minority secular democrats have any toehold in Egypt, it is in the courts. So Morsi issued his “sovereign” decree, denying the judiciary any power to invalidate the draft constitution, as the non-Islamists have petitioned it to do. That means the draft constitution will be submitted to the public for an up-or-down vote.