Published — Friday 7 December 2012
Last update 7 December 2012 1:25 am
Baring any acceptable solution to the growing political crisis in Egypt, the situation may descend into violence and instability. Anti-Mursi protesters clashed with the president's supporters near the presidential palace. In fact, Egypt witnesses the worst crisis since the president took office some six months ago.
Mursi is in real trouble. His opponents accused him of creating a kind of autocracy by granting himself extraordinary power and by imposing a constitution that does not represent the aspirations of a wide range of the Egyptian society. So far President Mursi has proven that he does not buckle under pressure. He is confident that his supporters can protect him and that the proposed constitution can pass in the referendum.
But, this is hardly wise! In politics, it is not a matter of a majority versus minority. If anything, the Egyptian state needs societal understandings that transcend the issue of a majority ruling over a minority. The president and his movement will be better off if they look for compromises with their opponents rather than imposing their will on the rest.
Averting a showdown is possible but not easy. The president can retract his decree, agree to revise the constitution and defer the referendum. The president is yet to understand that the revolution is not over. The transition should be in an inclusive manner and as a result of a dialogue. Unfortunately, the president and his Islamist supporters think that it is their golden opportunity to reorganize the Egyptian politics in their favor. They forget however that the Egyptians rose against tyranny and dictatorship and will not tolerate a new dictatorship.
And yet, the crisis is deeper than what many think. It has to do with the absence of an acceptable framework of democratic values that glues Egyptians together. Mursi's controversial moves came as a function of a lack of trust in his opponents. Put differently, President Mursi acted preemptively. Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha Center said, "Islamist distrust of the other side, justified or not, is what led Mursi to issue his Nov. 22 decree, people close to him insist. The Brotherhood saw an existential threat on the horizon: Looming in the near future were court rulings that would dissolve both the Constituent Assembly and the upper house of Parliament. Brotherhood and FJP officials told me that they knew from sympathetic judges that rulings revoking Mursi's Aug. 12 decree, which established civilian control of the military, and even possibly annulling the presidential election law, were in the cards. Another prominent Brotherhood member, who has privately been critical of Mursi's presidency, went so far as to suggest to me that, if the president didn't act preemptively now, the closing of Brotherhood offices could be next in a new campaign of repression, followed by the dissolution of the group itself."
Some even argue that the non-Islamist's antipathy toward the president and his dominant movement is not justified. The Muslim Brotherhood is adopting a version of politics that is different from the past and indeed more moderate. The program of the movement is way different from the past as well.
In Shadi Hamid's words, "The Brotherhood took steps to smooth over the hard edges of its political program during the next two decades, culminating in its 2005 electoral platform — the centerpiece of the group's effort to rebrand itself and offer a vision for political and institutional reform. Democracy, rather than shariah, was the new call-to-arms."
That said, the president and the Freedom and Justice Party made a key flip-flops. Their understanding of democracy is not complete. They think that they have the backing of the majority of people and that they can decide any step they want to take in a democratic way. Apparently, they failed to see that democracy is not only voting or having more supporters and more voters. It is about a broad societal understanding. Sadly, what is taking place in Egypt is a sort of polarization that threatens the stability of the country as a whole. It remains to be seen however how the president is going to tackle the growing political crisis. But short of meeting the rest of political force half way, the crisis is most likely to snowball.