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Op-Ed: Looming Unrest in Egypt

Egypt is divided between those looking for a transformation, taking the country from a dictatorship to a Jeffersonian democracy - and those seeking an Islamic theocracy.
Published: Monday, July 02, 2012 5:23 AM


With the narrow election victory of Mohammed Morsy, Egypt is entering a new era of civil unrest.

When Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters signed up for the race for President of Egypt, they presumed that the victor would assume Mubarak-like presidential powers. Victory bore a beautiful trophy, but had little clout. The military generals, the top dog behind the scene, behind the glory, would linger on and would keep on controlling the unfolding events.

Morsy will have no control over the budget and no decisive role in foreign policy, defense or national-security matters. Nor will he have the symbolic status of Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The military generals would keep all those functions for themselves, as well as claiming de facto control over the constitution-writing process. Morsy’s authority will be largely restricted to domestic matters, such as economic, education and socia lpolicies.

Mursy’s conciliatory language during his inauguration, calling for unity among all Egyptians, defining himself as an inclusionary—he would be president of ALL Egyptians, even those who voted against him—have been preached from a point of weakness. As long as the Egyptian president maintains no real power, his heart-to-heart about foreign policy, foreign relations and treaties, Israel and the Palestinians, is merely empty rhetoric designed to gain popular support.

I do not trust him! If Morsy ever gains a Mubarak-like presidential power, he would strive to emulate a Khomeini-like ascent to absolute theocracy, while benefiting from the popular support of the naïve masses.

These include the sizeable secular segment of the Egyptian society, the ones buying into his present conciliatory, deceptive words, spoken from a point of weakness. Bit by bit, Just like Khomeini in post-revolution Iran, he would amputate power and authority from secular executives in his government and transfer influence and clout to the religious leaders until absolute theocracy is in place.

At present, Morsy has little authority, yet it is embedded in a full-size ambition. His rhetoric, focusing on foreign relations where he has no say at the moment, clearly points to where he sees himself operating. He does not accept the status-quo, and he would, without doubt, put up a fight to arrest power and divert it away from the military.

Accomplishing this feat would require popular support greater than the 26% he acquired on election day (He gained 25% of the vote in round 1 and 52% of (only) 50% of eligible voters in round 2—that makes it south of 26% altogether).

In devising a strategy for arresting power, Mursy would instigate a gradual escalating crescendo of civil unrest. He would be conciliatory at first; His words would be calming; he would speak in the name of true democracy; he would motivate the masses into demonstrating, into protesting against the military’s undemocratic excess of power.

He would enlist the powerful, naive democratic leaders of the west, including President Obama, to his “democratic” cause. And Obama—like Jimmy Carter during the initial days of the Iranian revolution—would be on the side of democracy; he would assist Mursy in his quest for absolute power.

Mursy has a tough journey ahead of him. Most of the Egyptian public does not support him. Although he has won the elections, many of those voting for him, did so unenthusiastically. Their vote was a protest vote against the old regime rather than an expression of undivided backing for the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate.

Chances are that many of those Egyptians who have cast their votes for Mursy would become disillusioned with him over time, as domestic matters continue to deteriorate. Millions of Egyptians would still endure living conditions well below any civilized norms of poverty levels. Tourism—one of the major sources of foreign income—would keep on contracting due to the Islamic sway sweeping the country and its continuous, unrelenting assault on secular institutionsincluding the military rule.

There is no question. Egyptians will look to blame the failed leadership for their misfortunes.

Some will blame the military while others will blame the president. Chances are high for the blame game to become increasingly passionate, intense, and even violent.

The country is divided in the middle, between the seculars who brought about the fall of the dictator, and the religious opportunists who enjoyed a free ride on the back of the illiterates and those who wanted to see Mubarak and his cronies ousted without considering the alternative. Egypt is divided between the ones looking for a transformation, taking the country from a dictatorship to a Jeffersonian democracy and the ones seeking an Islamic theocracy.

Consequently, the outlook is that Egypt is facing a period of mounting civil unrest—a quest for power by two dichotomously opposing sides—the ultra-religious and the secular camps. Despite their symbolic victory, the ultra-religious are the current underdog in this struggle, yet they are the more aggressive;they are the ones raising the flag of true democracy, the mantra of the revolution.They claim to have justice on their side. The seculars are happy to see the military in charge, but, in general, they are less vocal and less aggressive.

This point was proven in the week following the elections and before the publication of the outcome. The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters were gearing up for violent protest had the winner been Ahmed Shafik. The seculars accepted the results with heartbreak devoid of any noteworthy protest.

The Israeli-Egyptian border may not see a serious escalation of violence in the near future. The Egyptian military will try to maintain the peace in the Sinai, while Morsi will try to blame Israel for any violent incident involving Palestinian terrorists.

But rhetoric cannot match actions, and the Egyptian military will keep on calling the shots on that front for the time being. Still, the current status-quo may not last forever.

We can only hope that the looming civil unrest would not bring about an absolute victory to the Islamists. We can only hope that most Egyptians, after realizing the consequences of their recent actions, will wake up and substitute euphoria with reality when they go inside the booth during their next presidential elections.

We can only hope…