Islamist Bros, Brotherhood woes

Homies.

Recent years have seen both triumphs and setbacks. Hamas, a Palestinian affiliate of the Brotherhood, won the Palestinian general election in 2006, forcibly ousted Fatah, its secular rival, from the territory a year later and has run the Gaza Strip since. Other close ideological kin include the leading opposition parties in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco and Yemen, as well as groups that have been banned and chased out of still more authoritarian states, such as Algeria, Syria and Tunisia.

The Muslim Brothers’ New Leader: Which Way Now?The Economist, 21 January, 2010.

The above paragraph is old; but it is also incorrect (at least partially) as far as Algeria is concerned. Its “ideological kin” in Algeria, the Movement for a Society of Peace (MSP, fmr. HMS), has felt serious electoral blows over the last five years. Its leadership been plagued by corruption and egoist scandals and lost popular credibility as a result of its participation in the tripartite ruling coalition with the FLN and RND. Its faithful are increasingly agnostic about the value of the party’s participatory strategy and the character of its leaders. (According to recent reports, published and unpublished, some of the top leadership aside from Madjid Menasra has grown weary of the party’s chairman, Boudjerra Soltani.) So the Algerian Ikhwan have had a rough time of late; David Ottaway writes about the party’s travails in the most recent winter edition of The Wilson Quarterly in light of the 2009 presidential election (the article is not available online).

The party has suffered at the polls and its leaders’ reputations have been damaged, but hardly “chased out” of Algeria, though their institutional enemies have done their best to emasculate them politically — their members still sit in parliament, Soltani remains in his post of Minister of State and continues to preach the value of political dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation between the state and the Islamist tendency and participation as the only way to push its agenda forward. Not an opposition party in the strict sense (circa 2003), the MSP is a part of the government, a [decorative] pillar of the regime’s public façade. The MSP is a case-in-point where the Brotherhood has lost credibility by participating in a political process designed to keep them weak and in the state’s control. They have no real power over policy except to raise fusses at symbolic issues (the Family Code or Palestine for example). Recall how Soltani was humiliated after Bouteflika publicly rebuked him before a gathering of governors for claiming to have dossiers on government corruption. Nowadays one of the MSP’s top ministers, Amar Ghoul, is on the hot plate on corruption charges, with several other top technocrats. The chairman has been obliged to defend Ghoul and others.

All that is summed by what The Economist wrote in its 8 October, 2009 issue:  the party’s popular decline owes to “a failure to fulfill its promises to bring about change.” But in Algeria that failure is not because the regime chased the party out or has persecuted them. It rather comes from the fact that it took the party under its wing and made just another party in an ornamental parliament, as ineffectual, limited and frustrated as all the others.

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