5 Things the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘Countercoup’ Tells Us About Egypt

President Mohamed Morsy's recent actions in Egypt is telling of the country's state of affairs — and the continuing struggle among its power players

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Amr Nabil / AP

Supporters raise a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsy as they celebrate in Tahrir Square, birthplace of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago, in Cairo on Aug. 12, 2012

3. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Since the fall of Mubarak, much of Egypt’s power game has been played outside the public view, a slow and grinding war of attrition in the corridors of power rather than dramatic showdowns on the streets. Sure, a few thousand Muslim Brotherhood supporters gathered overnight in Tahrir Square to support Morsy’s move, but these days such acts are desultory symbolic gestures; it’s not power on the streets that is shaping the current phase of Egypt’s revolution. Instead, it’s more like a Machiavellian Game of Thrones scenario, but without the incest and decapitations.

That makes moves like Morsy’s hard to detect before they’re announced, and even harder to read and respond to. “That kind of politics can be deeply frustrating for an engaged public sphere, since so much of it takes place behind the scenes and in indirect maneuvers rather than in thrilling street protests or the realm of public debate,” notes Lynch, who was an adviser to the Obama Administration during the Egyptian uprising. “Presumably Morsy and his team have been carefully preparing the ground for this weekend’s moves during the weeks where his administration appeared to be passive, floundering and ineffective.” Indeed, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland confirmed on Monday that the U.S. had for some time been expecting a leadership change in Egypt’s military although hadn’t been told when it would occur and also that Washington was confident in those promoted by Morsy.

But as bold and sudden as Morsy’s moves may have been, writes Lynch, “they don’t instantly wipe away the real power centers in Egyptian politics.” The deck may have been reshuffled, but conflicts between the elected leadership and the military haven’t been eliminated; nor have conflicts between the politicians and the judiciary, which may yet choose to push back against Morsy’s intervention — although, as the Century Foundation’s Hanna notes, the judges may be less inclined to do so if the military appears to acquiesce to the changes, for fear of making unenforceable rulings that then further undermine the position of the judiciary.

(MORE: Islamist Morsy Wins Egyptian Presidency, but Will the Military Cede Any Power?)

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