The Egyptian arena is witnessing a great political, intellectual, popular and media battle. Different sides are fighting over authority, positions, history and the future.
The disputed proposed constitution has caused bloodshed on both sides, but could anyone have expected people to die just for constitutional differences? Worse still the battle is about the future of Egypt; its political camps, trends and issues, and it could possibly lead to further tensions. We are in the third quarter of the Egyptian revolution. The first quarter was about the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, the second about the removal of military rule, and now we are facing a dispute over the distribution of power and positions.
Whether the majority of Egyptians approve the constitution or reject it, the biggest loser is the ruling party, the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been harmed politically and their image has been tarnished during the unrest over the past few weeks. Dramatic developments such as the dismissal of the public prosecutor, Mursi’s autocratic constitutional declaration and then the drafting of the constitution in just two days have divided the Egyptians with a knife. The remaining three years of Muhammad Mursi’s presidency will be hugely difficult. The Brotherhood have jeopardized the elite and popular sympathy they mustered over the past 40 years, and the opposition has exposed them as a somewhat dubious group.
The language of the street has helped to incite the intellectuals, who have expressed their growing anger. For example, Magdi Khalil, Director of the Middle East Forum, wrote that the proposed constitution is designed to suit the Islamist trends and consecrate a religious dictatorship. He said that anyone who witnessed the voting process would realize that the issue is about seizing power rather than holding a dialogue about governance. Khalil argued that following Vice President Mahmoud Mekki’s assertion that it is a case of survival of the fittest, following the clashes in the Ittihadiya district with some of the dead being labelled martyrs and others not, and following the General Guide and Khairat el-Shater’s threat that the Egyptians could face a massacre, the true intentions of the Brotherhood have been revealed. According to Khalil, they consist of forcefully imposing the vision of a single political faction on the Egyptian people as a whole.
Khalil’s stance reflects the state of anger uniting all opposition parties despite their differences. By virtue of the new constitution, the honeymoon period between the partners of the revolution has come to a swift end. The Brotherhood have become easy targets to discredit and Mursi has become a “persona non-grata.” The mistakes made by the Brotherhood since assuming power were not borne out of necessity, but rather they were a result of their religious training that does not distinguish between religion and the secular world. They want to transfer the concept of blind obedience to the political domain, where the defining characteristics are change and difference.
Huge public anger is being vented towards the recklessness of Mursi’s team and the hierarchical structure of the Muslim Brotherhood itself. The General Guide Mohammed Badie has used vulgar language to criticize his opponents, calling them blind followers and foreign agents, despite the fact that their objections are valid within the framework of the law that brought the Brotherhood to power.
Egypt is a sizeable country that cannot be controlled by a single entity imposing its vision upon everyone. This is what brought down the Mubarak regime in the first place, after the youth joined the rest of the opposition, and this will make life difficult for Mursi over the next three years, not only in the current constitutional battle. The opposition has become a reality in Egyptian life and a pivotal force. The Brotherhood have taken great pride in their 80 years of experience in political organization, yet they are surprised to see the opposition defeating them in their specialist subjects: inciting crowds and propaganda.