Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Post-Morsi Egypt: What next?

It is finally over. The military ousted Morsi and placed him and his top aides under arrest and issued arrest warrants for 300 leaders and members of Moslem Brotherhood. The problem for Egypt, and the United States, is that this is only the end of the beginning.

One thing for sure is that a significant segment of the society, notably the Islamists, are upset. The Moslem Brotherhood again feels aggrieved over what they perceive is a massive conspiracy to undermine both Morsi presidency and the movement as a whole. It would not be unthinkable for them to actually return to the path of violence, seeing that the democratic process is just a sham.

The liberals and secularists, while they are currently applauding the military's coup, could later rue the day of this coup, especially should the military again overplay its hands; and this time, it would be the final nail in the coffin of the Egyptian democratic experiment. Like it or not, the Egyptian military is not a democratic institution. And what happened today is simply an alliance of convenience between two camps that saw the Moslem Brotherhood as the biggest threat, and there is no guarantee that the military will not intervene the next time, regardless of whether the government is headed by an Islamist or a liberal.

To put it bluntly, in overthrowing Morsi, Egypt is not out of the woods yet. There is distrust and suspicion all over the place, and the economic crisis, which was the primary cause of Morsi's downfall, continues unabated.  In fact, the next government will be in an unenviable position of getting blamed for a collapsing economy.

So what's next for Egypt?

The prognosis is pretty grim. Still, one can hope that the political actors have learned some lessons over the past two years so that they could avoid any pitfalls. They, however, need to pursue several confidence-building measures:

First, the military should return to the barracks as soon as possible. The military should avoid overplaying its hand by creating a technocratic cabinet, headed by a respected civilian, whose members should still include the Moslem Brotherhood as a caretaker cabinet, one that gives a timetable for the next legislative and presidential election in about a year or two. It should also create an inclusive committee to draft and fix the constitution that Morsi passed in November 2012. By doing this, the military could assure the people that it is not interested in keeping power and only intervened to prevent the country from descending into chaos.

Second, as a sign of goodwill, the military should also release Morsi and his top aides, and assure them that they will not be brought to trial. Granted, this is a risky proposition, given that Morsi and his supporters would still be an angry bunch. Still, it is better than letting them rot in jail and brought to trial, as this would alienate a significant members of the society. Like it or not, the Moslem Brotherhood is still the most organized political entity in the nation. Even though they received widespread criticisms due to the persistent economic crisis, they still have a significant numbers of supporters.

Third, should the Moslem Brotherhood intend to return to power, it should avoid the mistakes that it has made in the past two years. It should reach out to other interest groups -- the liberals, secularists, and Coptics -- and try to understand their concerns. In essence, it should realize that it does not have the license to reshape the Egyptian society in its image; rather, it should try to accommodate interest groups in the nation, lest it will again provoke a backlash.

Finally, for the United States, the best action it could take at this point is to shut up. Trust toward the United States is at all time low and Obama has zero credibility in the streets of Cairo. The Moslem Brotherhood saw the United States as the primary backer of the military, while the rest of the population saw the United States as too cozy with the Moslem Brotherhood. Any attempt to intervene at this point would do nothing but further damage America's credibility in Egypt.

Instead, the United States should quietly send an olive branch to any new government, proposing economic aid to help facilitate the transition of Egypt back to democracy. Any other comments, notably condemning the coup, are simply unproductive.

No comments:

Post a Comment