mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Time Running Out for Morsi

In a direct challenge to Egypt’s ruling military council, the newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi ordered the Parliament to reconvene. This comes after the elected body was forcibly dissolved by the military ruling council, a measure that was backed up by the country’s highest court.

The smoke hasn’t cleared yet. Both sides are scrambling to act, and the military has not yet issued a response. No one seems to know whether this move was a surprise push from the president himself, or the result of some back-room deal between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army.

What we do know is that the military has institutional power. The civil service, the courts, and the business elite remain tied to the status quo. The President and the Brotherhood, on the other hand, have street power. They have the backing of the public, or at least the tacit support of a majority of people.

Time is probably on the military’s side. Street power can be a force to contend with, but the drive and excitement of such power tends to dissipate with time. The president thus would be smart to start a confrontation while his mandate is fresh and his supporters are still mobilized. The military’s strategy, meanwhile, always seems to avoid confrontation until the time is ripe and the opposition is weak. That may account for the military’s deafening silence thus far.

Unfortunately, this is not a recipe for success, as drawn-out political instability like this will postpone the economic recovery Egypt desperately needs. Investors want to know who is running the country, and the tourists that drive the economy want to know that the instability is over. The question now is whether anyone can challenge the military while also restoring the confidence that comes with economic growth. If Morsi is not up to the task, public opinion will probably shift in favor of stability, and the president’s strength will diminish over time.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Cunctator

    “Time is probably on the military’s side.”

    I think not. If the Muslim Brotherhood is like other Islamist organisations, it has far greater staying power and takes a far longer perspective on its agenda than does a secular organistion like the Egyptian military. But, perhaps just as important, the military is made up of conscripts, vast numbers of which will either support the MB themselves or whose family members do.

    The battle is lost in Egypt. It was lost when Obama and the Egyptian military toppled Mubarak. It is now just a matter of time before their power completely slips away.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service