The decision to delay Egypt’s parliamentary elections, probably until October, has raised fears that growing political tension and polarization could lead to prolonged violence and provoke a military coup.
If the country becomes ungovernable, the “madness” of military intervention can’t be excluded, says Amr Hamzawy (right), a leading liberal and a political scientist at the American University in Cairo.
“This devastating combination of violence, failure of state and opposition and state establishments degeneration means one thing in all likelihood: we are taking this country to a point where it could well be ungoverned and unfortunately could end up being a failed state,” he stated.
The Arab Organization for Human Rights today denounced Islamists’ attacks on prominent human rights activists Hafez Abu Seada, the head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, and Dr. Hassan Nafa, a professor of political science at Cairo University.
After 30 years of dictatorship, the Muslim Brotherhood “promised to be inclusive and tolerant,” The Economist notes.
But since Brotherhood official Muhammad Morsi became president, “politics has become steadily nastier. Egyptian society is ever more polarized.”
A group of UN experts today urged Egypt’s Shura Council to reject a draft NGO law, which infringes international standards on freedom of association.
“It is highly regrettable that a government that was formed as a response to peaceful social activism can place such restrictions on people’s right to freedom of association,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, on human rights defenders, and on freedom of opinion and expression. “All actors should play a role in the conduct of public affairs.”
The draft legislation stipulates that NGO funds should be considered public funds and groups will be banned from securing foreign funds without prior approval.
“These provisions…. will compromise the role of independent civil society organizations, which is essential, particularly in times of political transition,” warned Maina Kiai, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.
Morsi’s recent threats against the opposition and media have been unhelpful in stemming the mood of political intolerance.
“Their lives are worthless when it comes to the interests of Egypt and Egyptians,” said Morsi, adding that “we can sacrifice a few so the country can move forward. It is absolutely no problem.”
“This is again another form of the perpetuation of violence; that was not the kind of language that one would have expected of the head of the executive who … seems now to be diverting more towards a profile a Mafioso,” Hamzawy said.
But the Islamists’ liberal and secular critics also bear some responsibility for the deterioration of Egypt’s transition, he said.
The opposition has “failed so far and despite the many challenges to offer a cohesive alternative and is confining itself to criticizing the performance of the president and to appease the masses without attempting to offer serious solutions for consideration.”
Even without the postponement of the election, the transition process was in trouble, said Professor Hassan Nafae of Cairo University.
“It was up the president to complete the formation of the institutions. But as a matter of fact, he has not been able to do that in a good way because the constitution has been drafted and adopted through a referendum before it had a real consensus,” he said.
A prominent Brotherhood sympathizer concedes that Egypt is suffering from “a leadership deficiency,” but sees no signs of an end to the current polarization.
Morsi “will survive the political quagmire,” says Moatazbellah Abdel-Fattah, director of the House of Wisdom think-tank, if he “manages to get through the next six months and ends with a functional government place that can address the most pressing economic and security concerns, a fairly elected parliament in place and is willing to undertake the reconciliatory moves necessary to dispel the fears of Copts and the judiciary.”
The current economic crisis and political instability may prompt a military intervention to end Egypt’s democratic transition, says Abdel-Fattah, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo.
“Though let’s face it, if you asked an average Egyptian today if he or she is willing to forgo democracy in return for security and economic stability the chances are they will say yes,” he said. “This is where growing calls for the return of the army come from.”
Political analyst and publisher Hisham Kassem [left] tells VOA the delay could hurt the Islamist parties that dominate government, including the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, with a decline in popular support as economic and security problems mount. But he argues that may be neutralized by disarray in the opposition. …..While the polarization between Morsi and his opponents have led to street battles in recent months, Kassem remains optimistic that stability will prevail.
“We have seen very poor performance of the Brotherhood matched by very poor performance by the opposition,” he said.
“The only positive thing here is that there is still an attempt and enough foundations to prevent the country from going into a civil war or into chaos.”
Given the country’s looming economic crisis, Egypt “needs a government that can take some difficult decisions swiftly,” says The Economist:
To that end, Mr Morsi should select a fresh team of ministers from a much wider ideological spectrum, including technocrats and secular-minded people as well as his own Islamist brethren. Together they might share the opprobrium that will inevitably result from the measures needed to do a deal with the IMF and get the economy working.