It is difficult to figure out what is really happening in Egypt. Amid a tsunami of rumors, accusations, and conflicting reports, finding the truth is a very hard task.
First, let’s highlight some facts about the current four major players—the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood, other revolutionary forces and political parties, and the Egyptian public.
The last test of leadership skills of our de facto rulers – SCAF- was 39 years ago (the 6th of October – Yom Kippur War). The reports of their intelligence, smartness, and shrewdness are not objective and are either overvalued or undervalued. In fact, all their recent decisions paint a picture of a confused bunch who have been taken aback—just like many others—by Morsi’s victory in the first round of elections. For them, the constitutional declaration is probably a bargaining tool to be used to assert their stance and ensure that they will always be part of the game. However, I am not sure that they will be willing to play a hard game and enforce a curfew or crack down on demonstrators. Although in Egypt, it is wise to never say never!
The Muslim Brotherhood: Their impressive ability to mobilize the crowds and energize demonstrations in Tahrir is a testimony to the discipline and the blind faith of their mid- and lower-level cadres. They remind me of the social union of Nasser’s time. It is no wonder they got on well with the 6th of April movement. To stage a set-in in the scorching heat is a testimony of their determination. Will the Muslim Brotherhood resorts to violence? Unlikely. I am still taking reports from state TV about arms smuggling inside Egypt with a pinch of salt.
The Revolutionary Groups: Most of them share the brotherhood’s mistrust of the military. On the top of the list is the 6th of April movement; well-known to the media than to many ordinary Egyptians. Their overinflated sense of importance has led them to join Tahrir with the brotherhood to give a false impression of popularity. Also, there are other groups and famous figures, most of them backed Aboul-Fetouh in the first round (such as Wael Ghonium). It was interesting to see how “old”political parties such as Wafd and Tagmouh were absent from yesterday’s agreement; this could be an indication of severe mistrust toward the brotherhood or an indication of their insignificance as strong players in the quickly evolving political map of Egypt.
Finally, the General Public: Many are either indifferent or even hostile and resentful. They are eager for the whole bunch to reach a deal that can enable them to get on with their lives. They are frankly more bothered about the upcoming Ramadan than with the next constitution. As one lady aptly explained to me this morning, “We are the disfranchised; we are fed up with the others using us for their political gains.” It is also worth mentioning the relatively big turnout to the Pro-SCAF/pro-Shafiq demonstration in Nasr City, which send a strong message that the pro-Islamists are not the only players in town.
So what exactly is happening?
The short answer is, We don’t know.
But there are some clues as to what our future might hold.
The first clue is the agreement announced yesterday between the brotherhood and other political forces. Is this good news? Maybe. The brotherhood seems to be agreeing with the non-Islamists’ demands, such as for a civil state, a presidential team, and an independent prime minster. However, this agreement will probably evaporate once the brotherhood reaches a deal with the military. There are some reports that El-Baradei met with SCAF, but I doubt that he will agree to join the game and become the prime minister. Who wants to be another Essam Sharaf?
The second clue is today’s report of the negotiations between the brotherhood and SCAF, which is not surprising. They are the big players, and the future of Egypt still depends on their ability to compromise and reach a deal. The gap between them is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, but their survival instincts, together with their maneuvering skills, may help them to reach a deal. They know each other well, and I am sure that their discussions will be open and frank. I wish I was a fly on the wall in the room where Shater and Anan—two most powerful men in Egypt—have met (if it indeed happened).
The third clue is the American factor. There are many speculations and accusations about which side the U.S.administration is backing—Morsi or Shafq. I doubt that timid Obama will actually back anyone. The failure of the revolutionary forces to be an effective political force has pushed the Americans to make tough choices between the old guards (Junta), which can make them look antidemocratic, and the brotherhood, who they still can’t fully trust despite reassurances. My guess is that Obama’s gut instinct is to back Morsi to stay on the good side of the Islamists, but he and his advisers are probably secretly skeptical.
The fourth clue is the delay of the results and the crazy rumors going around about who will be the winner. This is all probably part of a psychological war between the two big camps. Some have fallen for it, but the general public is not bothered anymore because their instincts tell them that it is all simply nonsense.
For now, we have three possibilities:
Possibility 1: A deal is brokered, in which case, Morsi will be president, but behind the scene, the true power will be in the hand of two figures, Anan and Shater. If they both found some common ground, it would be truly ground breaking.
Possibility 2: No deal, if defiance prevails and the two parties decide to test each other’s ability to confront.
Possibility 3: A reelection in some districts, if they decide to agree to disagree and take Ramadan as “hudna” (truce). Unlikely!
As for what tomorrow will hold, will it be a sandstorm or a sunny day? Who know? We shall see.