The Egyptian Crisis

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FOREIGN POLICY JULY 2, 2013

The Egyptian Crisis

Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University, and an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is an expert on Egyptian politics. After spending a week last month in Egypt, he wrote up his impressions in Foreign Policy. Brown’s report, which appeared last week, anticipates the current crisis. Brown shows how Egypt today is taken up two opposing narratives,  which are driving the country toward a civil war or a military takeover. Here is how Brown characterizes the two narratives:

Egyptian politics now seems to operate in two parallel universes. On the one side is a simple story of a president and ruling political party that suffered years of oppression but were finally rewarded by the Egyptian people for their endurance, dedication, and honesty. Endowed with clear democratic and constitutional legitimacy—and brought to power on the heels of a popular uprising that his movement helped lead—President Morsi suddenly faces an array of forces who wish to rewrite the rules of the political game in a blatant attempt to overthrow the express will of the people. Stopping at nothing (the opposition uses false charges, accepts foreign assistance, uses shrill and incendiary rhetoric, refuses dialogue, and does not even stop at violating common decency by demonstrating in underwear), a collection of rude youth, power-hungry secular politicians, old regime elements, and scheming security services have conspired to declare, in effect, that Egyptians must be called to the ballot box only on condition that they reject Islamists (and if they make a mistake, they must be summoned back again).

On the other side is an equally simple story of a president who narrowly won office promising competence, inclusiveness, and conciliation but who delivered instead inflation, unemployment, power outages, fuel shortages, autocracy, sectarianism, and divisive rhetoric. Offering meaningless dialogues without the hint of concessions, his erstwhile allies have all abandoned him. And as the ranks of his critics have grown to the extent that they clearly have come to speak for the vast majority of Egyptians, the society has quite simply withdrawn confidence in him as president. Rather than following the text of a constitution that the president's party rammed through for its own purposes—a constitution that would force the country through three more years of deterioration and despair—Morsi should leave office now and allow the people to pick new leadership.

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