The good news is that the Muslim Brotherhood officially responded to my argument last week that they could be guilty of bribery and voter manipulation in the run-up to Egypt’s elections. The bad news, however, is that there is no meat in their response. In the spirit of democratic engagement and dialogue, I will say three things:
First, if the Muslim Brotherhood can tweet and comment on Egypt from New York (as they do), then so can I and others. Being in the West does not nullify our observations, as suggested in the Brotherhood’s response. After my last set of meetings with the Brotherhood, I wrote this piece for Foreign Policy magazine. In short, I maintain contact with the Brotherhood and others in Egypt for research purposes.
Second, 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.
Third, several of the above sources cite recipients of the Brotherhood’s generosity openly stating that they will now vote for its Freedom and Justice Party. No surprise. Yes, the Brotherhood is entitled to distribute alms and food to the poor. But two factors change that good deed to corruption: timing and elections.
Going forward, if this and future Egyptian elections are to be free and fair, then this unfair advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood will need to be reconsidered. 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.”