Egypt Conflict Alert

From the International Crisis Group, trying to find a solution to the current political mess:

Reversing these dynamics requires efforts on two fronts. Politically, the key is mutual acceptance of two realities: that the Brotherhood’s electoral victories give their rule legitimacy, but that a historic, complex transition in a challenging security and economic context requires exercise of power to be tempered by meaningful consensus-building.

Several steps would help: an end to opposition calls for the president to step down and agreement by Morsi that the constitution, whose adoption was marred by boycotts and low voter turn-out, ought to be revised to allay the apprehensions of non-Islamists and notably the Coptic community. Likewise, the process for designing the elections law — another topic of sharp disagreement, especially on district boundaries and the representation of women — should be revisited to reflect broader agreement among factions. Finally, in the wake of approaching parliamentary elections, parties should seek to form a national coalition, a result that would serve both the Muslim Brotherhood (which would gain from the opposition becoming a responsible stakeholder) and the opposition (which would be better positioned to impede what it views as efforts to institute single party rule).

Very good analysis (if you read the whole thing), and workable solutions. The main monkey wrench could prove to be the Salafis. Amending the constitution implies making it more liberal and less religious. If the Brotherhood signs off on this the Salafis could turn against them quickly, and it is unlikely middle-ground liberals would come to their electoral rescue.

The concerning point is that the best path to power for the Salafis could be in a full chaotic rupture of society, requiring a full military-religious partnership simply to restore order. Certainly not publicly, but does the Brotherhood implicitly threaten the liberals that they (the MB) are the best bet going? Otherwise, we turn the Salafis on you?

But if this is part of the Brotherhood negotiation tactic, it will certainly ring hollow for liberals when the MB turns consistently to Salafis for support. Their rubber-band-like moves from the right to the center must be wearisome to the opposition. What does the Brotherhood want, and what do they represent, truly?

Not that the opposition plays clean or consistently, either, as the article makes clear. But the constitution has soiled all trust and destroyed the middle ground. It would be a shame if the constitution itself is, in fact, the best middle ground that can be obtained. Ugh, as illiberal as portions of it might become.

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