Saturday, 6 July 2013

Egypt: When is a Coup is Not a Coup ?

If  a coup has not officially happened in Egypt it is certainly a military takeover that could well be seen to be a coup should the Egyptian army's control not proceed to elections and the resumption of free elections rather quickly. That has to involve the Muslim Brotherhood to some extent as it is not a 'terrorist organisation'.

The Muslim Brotherhood is hardly one monolithic bloc of fanatics. It contains radical and moderate factions, the leaders trying to control events by calling for mass protest and to retain a presence on the street while calling on their supporters to refrain from outright violence.

The problem is that now the Muslim Brotherhood has been humiliated and its leaders arrested, that radical factions might well revert to going underground an fomenting plots against the state as it did for most of its history when it was influenced heavily by the ideologies of al Banna and, more radically, by Qutb

That was alluded to by Salah Sultan, a senior official in the Brotherhood and Egypt's deputy minister of Islamic affairs "We will go underground if we have to". Even if only around 30 have died so far after pro-Morsi rallies of 50,000 have amassed and there is a trend towards paramilitary demonstrations around Cairo University

If violence becomes protracted in the coming days and weeks in a heated atmosphere in Cairo, radical supporters of  the Muslim Brotherhood may revert to plotting terror attacks  as the 'moderating' influences of the "Guidance Council" and top officials diminish as they are disappear under the army's detention.

This will certainly be the case should there be absolutely no freedom for them to campaign democratically as happened for a long time under Mubarak's regime and set against the raised expectations of having had a taste of democratically elected power.

Any new government would need to co-opt Islamists in order to try to provide some sort of concession to this popular bloc in Egyptian society but with the scale and depth of the polarisation, between those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and those who see it as a majoritarian tyranny, this seems hardly possible.

Indeed such concessions happened intermittently from the 1980s under the old regime as policy swung between limited toleration and inclusion followed by expulsion from the political process and repression when the Muslim Brotherhood started to push for the repression of minorities such as the Coptic Christians.

Yet every time the Muslim Brotherhood got a measure of power in Egypt they tended to show that they were not ready to tolerate attempts by the Egyptian government to divide opposition and rule by amending the  constitution to Islam as `the religion of the state` and allow women and Christians to run for the presidency.

The reality is that with a collapsing economy, rising food prices, hunger and anger the Egyptian government has little time to enforce the stability needed and then act in a conciliatory way to both Islamist groups and various secular democratic forces without there being the potential for conflict and civil discontent.

The outcome of the crisis in Egypt will either be repression under a military regime that will lead to a potential for terrorist attacks or the return of a measure of democracy in which Islamists may well have a chance of regaining power unless they are pointedly excluded and which could also lead to violence on the streets.

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