The revolutionaries who reluctantly voted for President Mohamed Morsy in the runoffs in the presidential election — the “Lemon Squeezers,” as many called them — are once again coming under fire.
The Lemon Squeezers are being held responsible for Morsy’s confused decisions. The main goal of this attack is to have those reluctant voters say they made a mistake by not voting for Ahmed Shafiq, Morsy’s contender in the runoff. The point is to reinstate Shafiq as a viable option in preparation for his return as the savior from Muslim Brotherhood misery.
However, considering the moment when they decided to vote for the lesser of two evils may reveal the opposite.
Those voters are not to blame for a criminal, erratic transition led by generals similar to Shafiq, which ended with that nightmarish binary where people had to pick between Morsy and Shafiq. Whether the army generals planned the transitional period to be this way or this is just how it turned out, the outcome remains unchanged: the interim period has revealed the generals’ utterly poor performance and their failure to achieve the simplest needs of the public.
Perhaps those voters picked Morsy over Shafiq in the belief that the Brotherhood represents a decades-long social and political reality that we have long evaded and should now face. Choosing Morsy was an inevitable sacrifice to move forward, a brave confrontation with fears, an attempt to have the Brotherhood shoulder their historical political responsibility as an avidly alert society monitors their performance and tests the authenticity of their slogans and promises.
Perhaps this explains the Lemon Squeezers’ harshness with the Brotherhood as soon as Morsy won the election, as well as their alertness in the face of any authoritatian gestures on Morsy’s part. In addition, their engagement in continuous battles against him reflects their awareness of the reality of that choice being just one stage in a lengthy conflict.
On the other hand, choosing Shafiq was a pure illusion, one that embodied Egyptians’ tendency to pick the easy choice, as though the return of the Hosni Mubarak confidant and the disciplined general would take us back in time.
This choice reflected the misery of entire institutions that mobilized their capacities to have Shafiq elected in the hope of getting the kiss of life and winning a contest that would give them the needed political support to take revenge on the revolution, keep the Brotherhood in check and get the state’s security and media tools working again.
This choice would have presented any solutions. It would have triggered a ferocious conflict where the remains of the state would clash with thousands of idealistic, impulsive youth — which would have ultimately served the Brotherhood.
This choice would have constituted an opportunity for the Brotherhood to employ conspiracy allegations to win supporters and to present a coherent discourse and organization and to justify its successive political and economic mishaps.
In the absence of the generals, the Brotherhood will be more vulnerable to criticism in the face of wide-scale societal antagonism. We should realize by now that there is no going back, and that the Brotherhood-generals binary is existentialist such that the absence of one of the two requires the absence of the other.
Now that society is interacting with the Brotherhood without barriers, their weaknesses are clear and so are those of the old regime. Everyone must have realized the inevitability of founding a new state, one that is entirely disconnected from Mubarak’s or the Brotherhood’s fantasies.
The question now is: What is so attractive about restoring Shafiq or the generals so that calls for their return resound?
Several revolutionaries express reservations over the use of terms such as the deep state or feloul — remnants of the Mubarak regime — since they involve exaggeration and generalization. Also, many of them see how the Brotherhood’s actions undermine the revolution, even though the Brotherhood uses the term revolution frequently in their discourse.
This may lead to rapprochement between two medium-sized, though important, societal blocs — the revolutionary one that voted for Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh on the one hand, and the conservative, statist bloc that voted for Shafiq and Morsy on the other.
This rapprochement can happen if we abandon trading accusations and break psychological barriers to agree on a joint political agenda that achieves the goals of a strong state and victorious revolution simultaneously. We would thus find a new state that breaks with Mubarak for the sake of the revolution’s dream of a just and competent state that serves its citizens.
This could help achieve the dreams of the revolutionaries. It will also reassure the fearful conservatives and secure the aspirations of the more needy in society, as well as keep the Islamist current in check using democratic, rather than authoritarian tools.
This can all be achieved if the bases that previously supported Shafiq under the pressure of necessity rally around new parties and prudent, flexible political leaderships such as Mohamed ElBaradei and Sabbahi. But this choice is threatened by calls for Shafiq or the generals to return as the saviors from the current standoff.
Why this insistence and denial of other choices? I think it is mere obstinacy.
Mohamed Musleh is an Egyptian writer and researcher. This article was translated from Arabic by Dina Zafer.