Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s power grab obviously went 2 million miles too far. In an attempt to solidify the political clout of the Muslim Brotherhood and position himself as the absolute ruler of the country, Morsi’s actions have once again paralyzed the nation.
Behind these actions was an attempt to ram through a new constitution that would turn Egypt into a Muslim state, not unlike Iran. Fearing such a posture, for decades Egyptian leaders suppressed the Brotherhood. Now the lid has popped off the can. Old concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood’s intention have returned for a large segment of the population. These fundamentalist right-wing Muslims are on the march and appear unwilling to make compromises.
Because of broken promises from the Muslim Brotherhood there exists a fundamental distrust in Egyptian society. This religious group promised it would not dominate the parliamentary election or seek the presidency, but turned around and did. Their efforts in the last two weeks have virtually destroyed any trust between rival Islamist and secular factions. The country has turned back into a crisis.
With tens of thousands marching in the streets, Morsi appears to be finally waking up to the disaster surging toward his doorstep. Aids to the president have hinted that a vote on the contentious draft constitution won’t happen soon with the possibility of canceling the whole referendum. During these protests, a multitude not only marched passed barbed wire, but called for Morsi to resign. Offices of the Brotherhood have been attacked and burned. Once again the citizens are in the streets demanding change.
The latest turn of events has been Morsi’s calling on the military to restore order with the possibility of invoking martial law. From this new development has emerged a clearer picture of how the military was deposed from their power earlier in the fall. The generals had demanded a continuing role in politics. However, after taking office, Morsi courted the generals and used top officers to push out a handful of generals insisting on a political role. However, this arrangement remains fragile and it is not clear what the military would do if the riots and protests continue. Whether the deposed “retired” generals stay on the sidelines remains a question.
Of course, Morsi’s calling on the military seriously undermines his authority. There was even a fear that the Interior Ministry might not protect the presidential palace from the violence of demonstrations just beyond the doors.
On Friday night officials suggested a delay on a constitutional vote if their secular opponents would agree on some undefined terms. However, both sides believe the other negotiates only in bad faith so there is little ground for much compromise. The opposition simply cannot trust the Muslim extremists.
Where is all of this going? As of today, the direction is not clear and could depend on the military. Who the generals side with will determine who prevails. All sides are playing hard nosed politics and the stakes are high.
Can President Morsi survive his grab for power? Stay tuned.