Ask Michael Hanna Anything: Next Steps For Egypt

In today’s video, Michael explains why Egypt’s military and political leaders must pursue reconciliation and reform if they want the current transition to be successful:

Meanwhile, last night in Egypt there were more deadly clashes between security services and pro-Morsi protesters. Last week, Ahmad Shokr offered a succinct overview of Egypt’s precarious new order:

Egypt is still ruled by the armature of the old regime. Two and a half years of elite factionalism — the inability to forge a stable alliance — have set off a game of musical chairs. In this period, the momentum has rotated among Islamists, liberals, state bureaucrats, businessmen, military and security officials, and Mubarak-era dregs. They share a fetish for capturing the state but also the lack of a novel vision for dealing with Egypt’s deep structural problems. Attempts by any combination of these figures to restore full-fledged authoritarianism are likely be tempered by some level of public disobedience. At the same time, there is no revolutionary coalition strong enough to begin overturning the undemocratic and inegalitarian legacies of previous regimes. A balance of weakness has set in whereby no side in Egyptian politics is able to claim outright victory.

More distressing, perhaps, is a societal mood that is becoming more inclined toward intolerance and scapegoating.

Egypt’s unsavory climate of chauvinism, intransigence, opportunism and deceit from almost every side has been made worse by Mursi’s ouster and its bloody aftermath. Media outlets are constantly in search of fifth columnists to demonize, whether as “terrorists” or as “infidels.” The Brothers are portrayed as traitors with a penchant for violence who must be forcibly subdued. For their part, the Brothers paint the revolt against their rule as a little more than a conspiracy hatched by the old regime. They insist their resistance to the army is peaceful, but the string of violent acts by Mursi supporters — the killing of protesters in Cairo and Alexandria, the intimidation and mob attacks directed at Christians in Minya and Marsa Matrouh — tells a different story. There were even accusations that the interim president is secretly a Jew.

Thanassis Cambanis remains confident in Egypt’s revolutionary people-power:

Egypt can survive many more waves of revolt, election and coup, and it will, until the political order begins to reflect more of the will of the people. The latest roadmap repeats most of the mistakes of 2011 (for detailed explanations of how, read Nathan Brown and Zaid Al-Ali). The Egyptian public has developed a profound intolerance for arbitrary authoritarian rule; for opaque, paranoid leaders; for governments that ignore the country’s collapsing economy and standard of living.

Revolutionaries might not represent the majority, but they are now a maturing, key constituency. They are unlikely to embrace fascism or fiats from anyone: not the military, not the Brotherhood, not the old political parties. That’s the underlying signal of Egypt’s latest revolt. Until Egypt’s power brokers recognize the core demands of the public and begin to address them, the public isn’t likely to go away.

Michael Wahid Hanna is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he works on issues of international security, international law, and US foreign policy in the broader Middle East and South Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, BBC, and al-Jazeera. Additionally, his Twitter feed is a must-read for anyone interested in Egyptian politics. Michael’s previous answers are here. Our full Ask Anything archive is here.