The article examines the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt, 2012–2013, and how they dealt with the multifaceted challenges. The main argument is that the Brotherhood benefited from their past populist legitimacy to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the Mubarak regime, but that this legitimacy waned when they did not consolidate this legitimacy with a tangible national achievement. The Brotherhood were unable to count on Egyptians’ sympathy for their endurance of rough treatment at the hands of the previous regime over many years, because the 25 January Revolution changed the Egyptian people's expectations and spread knowledge of how to punish rulers who fail to meet these expectations: with sit-ins and street demonstrations. Despite Muhammad Morsi's victory in the presidential elections, and the forceful curtailment of his four-year term by the army, this leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood failed to translate his legal legitimacy into a wider populist legitimacy based on tangible achievements.
This article argues that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's policy changes towards the Muslim Brotherhood were based on their ability to effectively challenge the legitimacy of the regime. This rested on the Islamists’ ability to provide social services via a well-organized structure and network of contact with the ultimate result being that the Muslim Brotherhood garnered a de facto societal legitimacy, if not an official one from the state. In the 1990s, this social Islamist legitimacy was politicized and employed to impel the state to officially recognize the banned Islamists. However, instead of conceding to Islamist pressures, the state launched an offensive campaign to uproot their influence.