Mohammed Samhouri, a Cairo-based economist and a former senior fellow and lecturer at Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies in Boston.
Out of the many important lessons one can draw from the ouster of the Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi early this month, two in particular are highly relevant and have significant implications for addressing Egypt’s future political stability and viability. First, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) failed to fully understand the unique historical circumstances that brought them to power last summer. Second, they failed to exercise the art of modern-day inclusive, participatory, and consensus-building politics that is necessary to move post-Mubarak Egypt forward.
As a consequence of this tragic double failure, the MB has grossly misused the slim-margin (51.7%) presidential mandate they were given by the Egyptian people in June 2012, gradually advancing an Islamist agenda that was in sharp contrast to the Egyptian people’s wider, more diverse, and more pressing aspirations—as shown in their famous cry at Tahrir Square two and a half years ago for “bread, freedom, and social justice.”
The price of this tragic failure was quite high indeed, and it manifested itself by the end of Morsi’s first year in office in a number of ways: an increase of the country’s political instability and uncertainty, heightened social unrest and fractionalization, deteriorating public and personal security conditions, and the decline of the Egyptian economy to the point of near collapse. All of this added to the sense of frustration of an already impatient public that was eager to see tangible improvements in their lives and livelihoods.
Only by taking into account these complex political, social, security, and economic factors can one fully understand what happened in Egypt on June 30, and—perhaps more impressively—why an unprecedented 20 million Egyptians (by some counts) took to the streets demanding an early end to Mosri’s four-year tenure in office. Only in this context should one judge the adequacy of the “roadmap”—such as the timetable for its implementation, how the committees in charge for amending the suspended 2012 constitution will be formed and what the nature and scope of their mandate will be, and whether the different powers vested in the interim president will be acceptable to different political players—for the post-Morsi transition, announced by the Egyptian interim president on July 9, and assess its chances of failure or success. And only in this context is it possible to emphasize the crucial need for a speedy political reconciliation and to strongly caution against a non-inclusive transition process that could drive Egypt further into the unknown.