Egypt is lost in a legal and political maze, and has been since February 2011 when Egyptians first chanted “The people and the army are one hand” at protests for the ousting of then president, Hosni Mubarak.
Remember the slogan? When Mubarak ordered to crush the protests with violence, the army refused to make a move. It was a great moment in modern Egyptian history, but no one could have foreseen that, 18 months later, the military would still be controlling the country’s political and legislative process.
Newly elected President Mohamed Morsi is trying to wrestle any bit of power he can out of the military’s hands and bring it under the government’s authority. His first attempt last Tuesday was to try to reinstate the parliament, dissolved last month by the military following a supreme court ruling.
It appears Morsi has since backed down.
The wrestling match is not easy, however. After decades of security, political, and legislative powers residing firmly in President Mubarak’s hands, it is now difficult to disentangle who’s responsible for what. And with the lack of a constitution, it’s all for grabs.
The military enjoyed almost unlimited power during the Mubarak years. It achieved a certain level of economic freedom by setting up profitable businesses around the country (including upscale malls and Red Sea resorts), and it was accountable only to the president.
Today, the military fears that it will lose this freedom. It has no interest in divulging its budget and being accountable to a civilian president and the public, so it does everything it can to keep itself above everyone else in Egypt.
At the moment, the president looks more like a symbolic figure than anything. It is still too early to judge, but as long as the military doesn't back down, it looks like any decision Morsi makes could be vetoed by the military council.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood could use the only leverage they have: the backing of a majority of Egyptians. Mobilizing the streets en masse proved effective in the days leading to Morsi’s presidential win, and there is no reasons why this tactic couldn’t do it again.
However, they will have to use mobilization cautiously, as Egyptians are weary of all these political disputes and public disruptions, and are becoming increasingly jaded by the process. At this point, their priority is to work so they can put food on their family’s table.
The all-too-consuming Egyptian rumor mill has been abuzz in recent weeks of a power-sharing agreement between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political branch, the Freedom and Justice Party, makes for the largest group of MPs.
There is no way to know if such an agreement was reached, and it is only speculation as to its content. What is important, however, is that any delimitation of power be spelled out in the forthcoming constitution. This is of the utmost importance if the country is to move forward, both politically and economically.