Transition Pains in Egypt
Rising tensions in Egypt were unavoidable after Morsi’s intervention in the oligarchy of the judiciary. It is hard to say whether it was the Egyptian liberals that caused the tensions to rise, simply because the liberals have nothing to gain in Egypt on the streets. Neither the liberals’ popular base is capable of creating a social movement, nor do their actors have the experience to overcome such a trial. The Egyptian liberals need to understand, Tahrir is a good place for sending messages to Egypt and to Morsi, but it is not a good place to do politics.
They need to understand that there is a big difference between “gaining the support of the streets” and “doing politics from the streets.” Besides, Egypt is not simply a country whose political course can be determined by the early birds of Tahrir. Under current conditions in Egypt, all political actors, including the Brotherhood, who prefer staying on the streets to doing politics on legitimate grounds, must realize they are playing with fire. The fire is the possibility of the military-judiciary tutelage regime blatantly taking over the reins of power. Should the conflict on the streets continue full-fledged on the path to complete chaos, it will only strengthen the hand of the old regime.
What should Morsi do at this point? If Morsi backs away from his decisions, not only will he squirrel away the political capital vested in him by the Egyptian people, but he will also become an honorary president defeated by the Egyptian oligarchy. Morsi said “halt” to the tutelage regime in a language it understands. Every single political actor in Egypt knows this is so. They also know that the courageous decisions made against the establishment by a leader without a Parliament, Constitution, bureaucracy, intelligence, police, military or functioning economy are made out of necessity, not out of choice. In fact, for the liberals, the problem is not so much what Morsi does, but who Morsi is.
The debate in Egypt today is not a debate over content. On the contrary, it is a power struggle between Ikhwan and its supporters, dubbed “ignorant peasants” by some liberals, and the masses surrounding the old regime by a conscious or not so conscious decision. The only way this power struggle can be carried over to a legitimate ground to be fought freely at any time is to dispose of the tutelage regime. What are being experienced are the political tensions Egypt needed to live through during the process of the revolution that was realized by an apolitical discourse. What those who experience these tensions, the Ikhwan and some liberals, have in common is their inexperience. And the most determining characteristic of the old regime pivots are their decades-long political experience. Unless the two inexperienced parties realize that they are playing with fire soon, we may suddenly find Egypt in the middle of a de facto coup.
If Egypt has to choose between “growing pains of democratization” or the “military-judiciary tutelage,” it should not hesitate to pick the first option. It is, in fact, a strong possibility that the first option offers an exit out of what we call “political turbulence.” The second option, on the other hand, which we call “bureaucratic oligarchy,” may clear the path to Mubarakism that Egypt would be sentenced to for years to come.