Egypt: Moving toward a win-win outcome

Egypt: Moving toward a win-win outcome

Gen. Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, Egypt’s new deputy prime minister and de facto leader of the country, has received the popular mandate to crack down on terrorism and violence. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets on Friday to legitimize the military political role and intention to cut the conservatives down to size. Explicit in all statements made by Gen. Al-Sisi is that he would do what it takes to stabilize Egypt and that the Muslim Brotherhood should cooperate on this specific point.
On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood is having a difficult time in dealing with the unfolding events and the way Mursi was ousted. Their insistence on the return of Mursi to the presidency as a quid pro quo for their compliance is a non-starter. The Mursi followers have yet to understand the volume of the public anger caused by Mursi’s non-inclusive approach to governance and his failure to make good on his electoral promises.
Apparently, the traditionalists have the stamina to stage tedious demonstrations day in and day out. Therefore, occupation of the squares by the Mursi followers has two objectives. First, it may have a huge price tag domestically on the army especially if the bloodshed continues unchecked. Second, conservatives hope that the international community will put pressure on the military to undo the coup. In fact, these demonstrations whether in favor of the army or against it with the unnecessary and unjustified bloodshed will only make reconciliation a difficult task to achieve in weeks to come.
And yet, to get Egypt out of this political bottleneck and put the democratic transition back on track, all sides to the conflict must compromise. If the Muslim Brotherhood fails to handle the situation with sagacity, the movement will run the risk of being branded a terrorist group by many Egyptians and this may pave the way for banning it anew. This would be a grave blow not only to the Islamists but also to the model of transition with which Egypt is still grappling. Demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood and excluding them from an agreed upon formulae for power sharing in the interim period can be risky as well. Indeed, the moderation of the movement can be determined by how the authorities will be dealing with the movement in the few months to come.
Egypt is coming to a crossroads. If the political forces fail to appreciate the benefits of a national reconciliation before it is too late then the country may slide toward an authoritarian rule under the supervision of the military. Already, many Egyptians see in Gen. Al-Sisi a new Nasser! Supporters of Mubarak are rubbing their hands with glee and are willing to back the army to restore a new kind of autocratic rule.
Not surprisingly, sliding into a new dictatorship can hardly be peaceful. Unlike the days of Mubarak, now right-wing activists are more organized, better mobilized and they bitterly feel betrayed by the region as well as by their partners in the revolution. For this reason, the new regime can be lethally repressive in the foreseeable future.
The current crisis reveals that there is no love lost among the contending parties. This explains why many liberals and leftists support an undemocratic step for the sake of getting the Muslim Brotherhood out of power. But this is hardly a solution to a crisis and a struggle over power. The challenge facing Egyptians is how to agree on road-map that can guarantee their acceptance of the outcome of the democratic game in the future.
As Egypt is turning deadly, the enlightened elites across the political spectrum should learn a very important and relevant lesson to learn. Pluralism — the hallmark of democracy — and rights of minorities should be placed in the front burner once they discuss the way out. Those who supported the army intervention should not be complacent as Egypt is turning into a more autocratic and repressive state than it has been in the last few decades. While a majority of Egyptians cannot see this because they are driven by their resentment of the Mursi’s rule, soon they will turn against the emerging autocratic rule.
That said, Egypt still has a chance to make it. Moreover, there is a win-win way out but realizing this entails Egyptians to put their act together and pursue an inclusive approach.

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