Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt: the delayed conflict | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What we see today in Tahrir Square is a delayed conflict brewing since the overthrow, or stepping down, of the Mubarak regime. Whereas this battle was expected, it was long overdue. It is a conflict between three parties; the military establishment, the Muslim Brotherhood and with them the Salafis of course, and the third party being the youth of the revolution.

The youth are convinced that the military has sold them to the Brotherhood, and the military council itself has been dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood as a genuine, organized power, assuming that they will play the politics game, but along the lines of “you know and I know”, in other words: each of us is aware of the power and limitations of the other. The revolutionary youth were always the fuel for the Muslim Brotherhood fire. In relation to the military, the youth were mere “juveniles”. The youth’s demands were ambitious, but they lacked knowledge or genuine political influence on the Egyptian scene after Mubarak.

Hence it is clear that the three active parties on the political scene; the military council, the Muslim Brotherhood and the revolutionary youth all do not trust each other, and everyone is playing for time. Meanwhile, there is a fourth party in Egypt believed by some to be important, which has been termed “the couch party”, i.e. the silent majority that are watching and waiting, and may have a decisive say in the elections. Some hope that this group will be able to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood achieving the parliamentary majority. I was told by a prominent candidate for the Egyptian presidential elections that: “No one will achieve an overwhelming majority in the next parliament, rather it will be formed of fragile coalitions, and thus no one will have a mandate to draft the constitution alone”.

This is what frightens young people today, and we already warned them of it, i.e. the liberal forces, and told them they should not be like the Sunnis of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Some of them mocked these words, others underestimated them, but today the young people are in a race against time, claiming that their revolution has been hijacked!

The problem with the military is another matter altogether of course. The military council was delusional, mistaken to believe that it was possible to play politics with the Muslim Brotherhood. Before the upcoming elections on the 28th November, the military council’s demands were specific points, namely that it serves as the guarantor of homeland security, and protects the national budget and likewise the idea of a civil state. Yet there are also international obligations, alongside the genuine concerns of the Copts, which is what initially ignited the anger of the Muslim Brotherhood.

When I say that the military establishment was mistaken when dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, this is because the military council – as an intelligent Egyptian observer told me – “forgot the political history of the Brotherhood. They say that they will ride the train with you, but they leave before you have agreed upon a station”, i.e. they do not adhere to their promises. Of course the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is not the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood, which contested the game of politics in its country in accordance with the conditions in place, i.e. an already drafted constitution. By contrast, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is preparing to play according to the conditions it might impose when it writes the constitution, if it gains the majority, and the “couch party” does not mobilize as some in Egypt hope.

Thus, what is happening in Egypt is a battle that was long overdue, but nevertheless very late!