A difficult way forward in Egypt

From the website of the International Crisis Group:

20130704_EGYPT-slide-XTKM-hpLargeAs Egypt teeters on the verge of a catastrophic confrontation, it is difficult to discern who has been more short-sighted: an arrogant Muslim Brotherhood that misread electoral gains for a political blank-check or a reckless opposition that has appeared ready to sink the country in order to bring down the Islamists and whose criteria for ousting the president – generalised incompetence and wide unpopularity – could send many presidents packing. The priority today must be to avoid further bloodshed. It is, too, to ensure that the next chapter in Egypt’s troubled transition, unlike the last, is inclusive and consensual. The alternative is to continue with exclusionary, confrontational politics, albeit with greater violence with only a change of characters at the helm.

Egypt’s profound divisions rarely have been on starker display than these past days. Millions took to the streets on 30 June to demand President Mohammed Morsi’s departure; smaller, yet still large numbers responded to insist on his remaining in office. From all sides has come talk of blood and martyrdom – from the Brotherhood, the youth-initiated Tamarrud (Rebellion) and the army itself. The forceful removal of the nation’s first democratically-elected civilian president risks sending a message to Islamists that they have no place in the political order; sowing fears among them that they will suffer yet another bloody crackdown; and thus potentially prompting violent, even desperate resistance by Morsi’s followers.

The current crisis to a large extent is the product of a fundamentally flawed political transition. Political actors were unable to reach basic agreement on rules of the game or the desired political system, instead proceeding with a winner-take-all mentality that was sure to alienate – and frighten –losers.

More here.