Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wishful thinking in Egypt?

Wishful thinking in Egypt?

Eyal Zisser

There are two ways we can view the election results in Egypt. Firstly, that Egypt is truly divided — straight down the middle — between the Islamists and those who support the secular Egyptian state as we have known it for the last 50 years. But the other way of seeing it is that someone from up top — within the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces — came to the conclusion that the Egyptian public wouldn't accept secular candidate Ahmed Shafiq as Egypt's next president and therefore decided to declare Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi the winner, by the smallest of margins.

The military council's thought process is clear. The generals hope that Morsi will become a lame duck president even before his term begins. He represents, according to the official election results, only about half of the population. In addition, most of his authority as president has been undercut following an amendment to Egyptian law, and he will be subordinate to the State Council, comprised mostly of the generals.

The military is hoping that Morsi loses his momentum quickly. From now on, Morsi will be held responsible for the country's problems without having the actual power to govern or to make policy, and it will eventually be possible, the generals hope, to get rid of him in the same manner that they dispersed the Islamist-dominated parliament.

The U.S. and even Israel, for their part, hope that Morsi will exhibit responsibility and maturity, as his lofty new post demands. This is why the Americans, apparently, pressured the military council to sway the results in his favor.

We can only hope that despite this latest dish served by the generals, it won't be the Islamists who have the last laugh. In Turkey, after all, the generals who anticipated Erdogan's political demise after he won the premiership are now sitting behind bars.

Israel hopes that Morsi honors the peace treaty, thus providing it with a legitimacy it had lacked under the Mubarak regime. However, if Egypt's military fails to restrain and control Morsi and his colleagues, it will be more difficult to continue upholding the relationship between Israel and Egypt as it was originally formulated and preserved over the years, even after Mubarak's fall.