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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > Marching in Circles: Egypt's Dangerous Second Transition

Marching in Circles: Egypt's Dangerous Second Transition

Cairo/Brussels   |   7 Aug 2013

Nearly two-and-half years after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt is embarking on a transition in many ways disturbingly like the one it just experienced, only with different actors at the helm and far more fraught and violent.

Egypt
“The most likely path today is heightened confrontation amid political paralysis. It will take a herculean effort to break out of this cycle; most of all, it will require all parties to go against type and act against their natural instincts”.
Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Senior Middle East Adviser

In its latest briefing, Marching in Circles: Egypt’s Dangerous Second Transition, the International Crisis Group examines the current crisis. Polarisation between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi is such that one can only fear more bloodshed; the military appears convinced it has a popular mandate to turn the page on Islamist rule; the Muslim Brotherhood, aggrieved by what it sees as the unlawful overturn of its democratic mandate, seems persuaded it can recover by holding firm. Urgent, simultaneous measures are needed to end the violence, reintegrate the Brotherhood in the political arena and define a more consensual roadmap.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • Morsi’s administration treated a fragile, emerging political order as if it were long established and electoral results as dispositive in a country where public sentiment is fickle and trust in the ballot box scant. This approach, it thought, would allow it to impose its agenda without need for cross-partisan support. This turned out to be a monumental misreading. But as their opponents revel in the Brothers’ demise, they court the same mistake.
  • As a first step, Morsi and other Brotherhood figures detained for political reasons since 3 July should be released. Their continued imprisonment is not only a rallying cry for demonstrators; it also deprives any putative dialogue of key representative interlocutors.
  • Politicians and security forces should agree on immediate de-escalation by restricting (not banning) protests; ending politicised arrests and security crackdowns; and curbing incendiary rhetoric.
  • If a national dialogue is to have any chance of restoring a more normal climate, it will have to be broadly inclusive and empowered; optimally, it should be facilitated by a credible third party, such as the European Union. The purpose would be to agree both on a process for amending the constitution and on a political pact guaranteeing civilian, majority rule while protecting minority rights.
  • Washington and Brussels should seek to make full use of their diplomatic clout to rally regional allies behind what is the international community’s recurrently stated goal: ending the violence on Egypt’s streets and restoring an inclusive political process as soon as possible.

“The temptation to score a decisive victory, yesterday contemplated by the Islamists, today by their foes, is understandable”, says Yasser El-Shimy, Crisis Group’s Egypt Analyst. “Only this time, the cost of failure could well include political violence at a level not experienced by Egypt since the 1990s”.

“No political actor is powerful or popular enough to unilaterally dominate the post-2011 system,” says Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Senior Middle East Adviser. “The most likely path today is heightened confrontation amid political paralysis. It will take a herculean effort to break out of this cycle; most of all, it will require all parties to go against type and act against their natural instincts”.

 
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