With Political Forces in Deadlock, Egypt Heads for a Lose-Lose Game

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Saeid Jafari
Expert on Middle East Issues

Almost one year after forceful ouster of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, [former head of the Egyptian army] General [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi was introduced as the country’s new president through an election which has been surrounded by serious doubts about possible vote rigging. Now, analysts of Middle East issues are faced with a host of questions about the future outlook of Egypt under el-Sisi’s rule. Will Sisi be able to take Egypt out of its currently critical situation? Will the Egyptian army and the military pave the way for the country’s transition from a military government to a democratic and civilian state? In order to give answers to these questions, various players in the political scene of Egypt should be studied first in order to analyze their impact on the political equations of this country.

1. Liberal and dissident youth

During the past three years, freedom-seeking youth have emerged as one of the most important players in the political arena of Egypt. This group has the highest degree of contacts with the contemporary world, takes advantage of online social networks, spends many hours a day in the cyberspace, is not interested in traditions, and its main values are such modern concepts as freedom, civil society, democracy, social equalities and so forth. By banking on its high capacity to mobilize people, this group has been able to topple two presidents during the past three years. The question, however, is why after overthrowing [former Egyptian dictator, Hosni] Mubarak and Morsi, they were excluded from the country’s political game? The answer is simple. This group and its members do not follow a specific ideology and, like many other social and protest movements, they only know what they don’t want without having the slightest plan or idea for the future management of the country. On the other hand, they easily ignore some of the realities of the Egyptian society. The majority of the Egyptian society is made up of people with a firm belief in Islam and who are generally attached to Islamic traditions. More than half of that society does not dwell the cities and, as a result, a large part of the Egyptian society has very close ties with traditions. As a result, even after succeeding in the overthrow of the head of the executive power, these liberal youth were not able to snatch the reins of power due to their lack of correct understanding of the realities of the Egyptian society. Nor they will be given a share in any new power structure for the same reason. This is the deadlock in which the Egyptian youth are currently caught; a group of people whose power is frequently used to destroy, rather than to build.

2. Muslim Brotherhood

The second powerful political force in Egyptian politics is the Muslim Brotherhood movement. This movement has become more moderate in positions following internal changes made to it in 1994. The problem, however, is that the group has had no experience with running the government and Mohamed Morsi was the first member of this group who managed to obtain the highest executive post in Egypt. The lack of experience caused the Muslim Brotherhood to run the country in an awkward manner. By putting special emphasis on the need to Islamicize the country’s constitution, the Muslim Brotherhood scared away secular groups as well as the Egyptian youth. Although they had originally announced that the Egyptian revolution was a revolution carried out by the young people and that they had no plan for being directly in power, the Muslim Brotherhood gradually devoured all the positions of power. The authoritarian approach taken by the Muslim Brotherhood and, of course, the efforts it made to satisfy both the Salafi and secular groups caused each one of those groups to accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of being inclined toward the other one. On the other hand, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Justice and Freedom Party were so carried away with the sudden eruption of developments known as the Arab Spring that they actually believed there was no alternative to their movement in all the Arab lands. As a result, they reached the conclusion that all Arab monarchs and inherited republics will fall in a short period of time to be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. As a result of this state of affairs and due to lacking a correct understanding of conditions in the region and in Egypt, Morsi and his group paved the way for their eventual overthrow.

3. Military

The third major player in the political scene of Egypt is the country’s army and military forces. This is a current which tries to take advantage of the legacy left behind by [former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel] Nasser and [his successor, Anwar] Sadat in order to boost its credit. When the need arises, the Egyptian army generals talk about Nasserite Pan-Arabism, and at other times as the need changes, they introduce Sadat as their role model. Banking on strategic mistakes committed by people like [the country’s famous politician] Mohamed ElBaradei, the military managed to ride the new wave of protests launched by the young people and take the country back to the starting line. By taking advantage of the fact that Egyptian people were fed-up with instability, insecurity and the authoritarian rule of Morsi, the army colonels succeeded in introducing themselves as savior of the people; a savior that is apparently supposed to take Egypt out of its current dire straits. However, the question is: “Does the Egyptian army actually have enough potential to pull off this task?” The answer is certainly negative because they lack prerequisites for achieving this goal. The Egyptian economy has not been blessed with oil as a source of economic rents and, for the time being, the country should set its sights on petrodollars coming from Saudi Arabia and foreign aid from other countries. However, how long this country is supposed to continue to live on the basis of foreign aid? In order to establish his rule, Sisi will have no choice, but to blame domestic political groups for all the existing problems. As a result, he should put the focus of his government on the issue of security and that focus can be only achieved by paying less attention to issues, which are directly related to social welfare of Egyptian people. As a result, instead of clearing the way for reconciliation and dialogue among various political groups, the army will only move to pave the way for its own continued presence. As a consequence, the major dilemma faced by the army is that if it decided to follow the path of democracy in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would finally come to power again. On the other hand, if the army opted for establishing a dictatorship, it would exactly tread the same path as Mubarak.


According to the above facts, all three major players in the political scene of Egypt are, more or less, facing different kinds of dilemmas as a result of which analysts will be right to predict a lose-lose game for the country. Strategic mistakes made by all three currents during the past years have dashed hopes of seeing a positive perspective for the Egyptian society, at least, over the short run. Continued suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood can only make the group more radical and even helps the radical members of the group to rally more support from within the Egyptian society. The army, on the other hand, in a best-case scenario can only run the country similar to what Mubarak did and they cannot be expected to create better conditions than what existed under Mubarak. The young people cannot achieve their goals as a result of them being a minority in terms of population and also due to many ideological problems they are grappling with. As a result, they can only help the opposition groups to overthrow the rulers.

Key Words: Political Forces, Deadlock, Egypt, Lose-Lose Game, Liberal and Dissident Youth, Muslim Brotherhood, Military Forces, Jafari

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*Photo Credit: Al Jazeera

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