Center for Strategic Communication

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s
sudden move last week to oust the senior leadership of the Egyptian military
broke a long period of political stagnation and began to bring into view the
contours of the emerging political order. It reversed
views of Morsi
overnight. 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. [[BREAK]]

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.

In short, it is still too early to tell
which direction Morsi will take Egypt, which forces will cooperate, and which forces
will move to resist. There are a number of common theories of the case. One,
pointing to deep-seated mistrust of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s unprecedented
on formal power, and disturbing moves
against the independent media
, demonstrates fear
that he will now seek to impose Islamist hegemony. Another sees the military
still largely in control, sacrificing its aging figureheads and public
political role in exchange for more entrenched power behind the scenes. Still
others see Morsi’s move as an important step in advancing the transition from
authoritarianism to a democratic system by establishing civilian control over
the military.

Which of these is correct? Is
Egypt still under SCAF’s control, heading toward an Islamist theocracy, on the
road to democracy, or on the brink of economic and institutional collapse that
will make a mockery of the high political games that dominate the headlines? The
rapid shift in the narrative should breed at least some analytical humility.
Many argue the drafting of the constitution will reveal the truth, but it seems
unlikely that any greater interpretive consensus will emerge around that process
than has been seen around any other point in Egypt’s long, tortured transition
to a post-Mubarak era.

"Morsi’s Egypt" offers a wide range of
analysis of how Egypt got to this point, where it may be going, and how to
understand it all. It ranges widely over the dizzying moves of the last few
months, including controversial moves by the judiciary around the presidential
election ("Calvinball
in Cairo
," "Cairo’s Judicial Coup," and "Egypt’s Injudicious Judges"); the role of
the military ("The Egyptian Republic of Retired Generals,"
"Hard Choices for Egypt’s Military," "What Morsi Could Learn from Sadat," and "Cobra and Mongoose Become Lion and Lamb");
the struggles of non-Islamist political forces ("Can Egypt Unite?," and "It ain’t just a river in Egypt"); the
Muslim Brotherhood’s calculations ("Monopolizing power in Egypt," "Brother knows best," "Bad news for – and from – the Brotherhood,"
and much more, including a special guest appearance by the great Ellis Goldberg. Download "Morsi’s Egypt" here!