Only two weeks ago, most analysts had written Morsi off as a weak and ineffective executive boxed in by the ascendant military leadership of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). After his bold move against the SCAF and reversal of its constitutional decrees, many now fear that he and the Muslim Brotherhood stand at the brink of nigh-totalitarian domination. Both the earlier dismissal and the current exaggerated fears seem premature.
Egypt's politics remain polarized, its economy staggering, its institutions decayed. Rules of the game remain in flux, with the constitution still unwritten, parliament dissolved, and the judiciary viewed through a partisan lens. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's accelerated push for power risks triggering a backlash, not only from anti-Islamist forces but from centrists uneasy with ideological domination and from Salafi and other Islamist forces jealous of the movement's position. The military may have suffered a setback, but it retains great institutional and economic power, the respect of the Egyptian public, and (lest we forget) guns. Revolutionary forces have been relegated to the sidelines in recent months, but could rekindle street politics at any moment. In Egypt's polarized political environment, fueled by its contentious and turbocharged media and online public sphere, no consensus is likely to soon emerge.