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

5. For Egypt’s Civilian Politicians, the Choice Is Military Rule or Compromise with Detested Rivals

Morsy has made a bold move to roll back military influence over the process of writing a new constitution and governing the country, but it will succeed only if he manages to secure a broad consensus in the political class for those changes. If the Muslim Brotherhood is seen by its rivals to repeat the mistakes of the past year by seeking once again to monopolize power over the constitution-writing process and in governing the country, many liberal and other secularist elements will remain alienated from the political process, creating space and a measure of political legitimacy for the judges and generals to reassert their own authority in the guise of serving as custodians of secularism.

To create the necessary broad political consensus, Morsy would have to challenge the instincts and track record of his own party and live up to his promises to govern on behalf of all Egyptians by restraining the Muslim Brotherhood’s instinct to seek control over the political process. “The deeply rooted fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, fueled by recognition of their popular strength and doubts about their democratic convictions, prevents any easy [celebration of Morsy’s moves as a victory for democracy] in many quarters. That’s why the next few weeks will be crucial, as Morsy makes clear what kind of constitutional process he really intends and as the military and the anti-Islamist trends in Egyptian politics weigh their next moves.”

For those anti-Islamist forces, the challenge is the same: they’re never going to love or trust the Muslim Brotherhood, but nor are they ever going to achieve a democratic transition in Egypt without acknowledging that the Islamists playing the central role is, in fact, the verdict of the electorate.

MORE: Why the New Egyptian President’s Biggest Worry Could Be the Economy

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