Egypt analysis: Factions must learn from last 28 months that nation’s way forward lies in unity
An anti-president Mohammed Morsi poster is viewed as as thousands of Egyptians demonstrate against him in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. “While Morsi gained considerable popularity by sending the military back to barracks, he lost the confidence of many Egyptians when, last November, he issued a decree giving himself powers beyond judicial review”. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Egypt’s tragedy is that following the 2011 uprising that toppled 30-year president Hosni Mubarak, the “revolutionaries” were divided, leaderless and without a clear action programme; the army assumed both executive and legislative powers; and the Muslim Brotherhood was determined to take over.
Since both the generals and the deeply conservative Brotherhood leadership were essentially counter-revolutionary, they put the brakes on the transition to a multiparty, pluralistic democratic system of governance. The revolutionaries responded with demonstrations in Tahrir Square and elsewhere but could not form a viable opposition movement capable of challenging both the military and the Brotherhood.
The main objective of the military was to protect its vast economic empire and other interests, while the chief goal of the Brotherhood was to prepare the way for the 85-year-old movement to take full power in the belief that God had ordained this moment for the Brothers to triumph.
Although the Brotherhood repeatedly attempted to reassure the secular liberal revolutionaries and the army that the movement had no intention of using elections to capture parliament and the presidency, this is precisely what the Brotherhood did.
The army attempted to halt the Brotherhood’s campaign by securing the dissolution of the Brotherhood/Salafi-dominated lower house of parliament last June, following the election of President Mohammed Morsi. This action was a blow to the Brotherhood’s ambitions but it had no intention of halting its drive to promote the Islamisation of Egypt and the Arab world.
Morsi responded by assuming powers appropriated by the military and by retiring the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the service chiefs, and appointing younger officers more sympathetic to the Brotherhood, in particular, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the officer who has ousted Morsi.
While Morsi gained popularity by sending the military back to barracks, he lost the confidence of many Egyptians when, last November, he issued a decree giving himself powers beyond judicial review. His aim was to secure the adoption of a constitution to transform Egypt into an “Islamic state”.
Morsi, who promised Egyptians economic progress, jobs, improved services and a clean administration, did not deliver. Instead, he put Brotherhood nominees into positions of authority and promoted socially conservative policies and tampered with the media. He failed to halt torture and abuse of detainees or provide Egyptians with security, food, fuel and electricity. The country fell apart over the past 28 months under army and Brotherhood rule. Nevertheless, in the words of veteran analyst Hisham Kassem, “The Brotherhood thought, ‘God will see us through’.”
In his view, the movement is essentially finished as the dominant force in Egypt. Furthermore, fundamentalist militias “do not have the muscle to challenge the army” although they may resort to small-scale violence.
Muslim world project
The Brotherhood’s local and Muslim world project has been brought to an end stated Kassem. “Morsi alienated everyone: the army, secularists, Christians, neighbours, friendly Gulf countries [which provide financial aid] and the IMF. He did not do anything right.” Now he is gone, Egypt can rebuild relations.
The army understands it cannot wield political power. The police know they do not have a mandate to crush peaceful demonstration. And opposition factions have been taught by the revolutionaries that unity is essential on the political scene as well as in the streets if Egypt is to progress.