With the euphoria of both the evenings of 25th January 2011 and 3rd July 2013 presently resembling something of a surreal dream, discussing the medium-term future of Egypt – a potentially pivotal, transcontinental nation – may seem absurd if not downright impossible. But as blood flows like water, places of worship are burnt to the ground and some commentators are predicting full-blown civil war, we at Mediolana sense that this is precisely the time to analyse the possible constructive ways forward for the three major entities within Egyptian society: the military; the Muslim Brotherhood; and the general public.
1. The Egyptian Army. This institution – which has ruled Egypt largely unfettered since 1952, notwithstanding the revolution of 2011 – is presently in the ascendancy, having been a key and broadly popular actor in the recent deposition of kidnapped ex-president, Mohamed Morsi. However, this rise is a fragile one. The extreme brutality of the manner in which sit-ins in support of Mr Morsi have been abrogated – many hundreds dead, thousands injured – risks undermining the legitimacy of the armed forces in the eyes of a significant minority – perhaps even a plurality – of Egyptians. Exercising restraint, respecting pluralism and conceding that they will have to be subject to some kind of constitutional oversight would appear to be essential conditions to fulfil for the future of Egypt.
2. The Muslim Brotherhood. As detailed on more than one occasion in this very blog, the Muslim Brotherhood – to be precise, the Freedom and Justice Party, their main political wing – have been haemorrhaging support since since the end of 2011 as the performance of both their parliamentarians and their president has disillusioned even many of their (erstwhile) voters. Fatally, they appear to have drastically overestimated the level of backing they enjoy within the population at large, forgetting that Mr Morsi, despite the advantage of a formidable organisational machine, polled just 24.78% in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections; that the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état enjoyed genuine mass appeal is a serious indictment of their record. Engendering some really compelling and pragmatic ideas which will help the lot of all their compatriots without exception should assume the highest priority.
3. The General Public. The Egyptian public seems to be the meat in the Army-Brotherhood sandwich; in 2012, a majority did not vote for either the ancien régime candidate nor Mr Morsi in the first round, yet this was ultimately the choice they were presented with. To avoid being eaten alive, this bloc simply must find sane, compassionate and smart representatives from within its ranks; impress upon the authorities their desire for peaceful coexistence; and come up with a gradualist and inspiring roadmap to attaining democratic, constitutional government that the vast majority of the Egyptian population can accept. As the last few weeks have shown, the alternatives are not just unpalatable, but the stuff of nightmares.