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A new eruption in Egypt? (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Liad Porat 06/19/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=2087 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Even before Egypt´s presidential election results are published — in which Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamad Morsi will likely emerge the winner — the core rivalries in Egypt are crystallizing and the tensions between the hawkish parties are intensifying. On one hand, there is Ahmed Shafiq, a former general and the last prime minister to serve under ousted president Hosni Mubarak. His rival, Morsi, is a U.S.-educated engineer and until recently was the chairman of the Freedom and Justice party.

Even as the brotherhood rejoices in Morsi´s election victory, a bumpy road still awaits it, namely because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is positioning itself as a powerful force squarely in its path. The military council, it seems, is not interested in transferring operational authority to the brotherhood and has therefore engaged in a variety of feet-dragging maneuvers.

It appears evident that the two decisions made by Egypt´s Supreme Constitutional Court last week were aimed at debilitating the brotherhood. One decision was to authorize Shafiq´s candidacy, despite his association with the failures and crimes of the previous regime. The second decision was to disband a third of the parliament, citing that the parliamentary election process was illegal. The brotherhood leaders, who have accrued many years of experience with the hardship of struggle, are projecting determined confidence and a "business as usual" exterior in order to assure that their candidate is elected president.

Hanging like a dark cloud over the brotherhood is the concern that the military council will take harsher steps to hinder its power. One such step was the recently adopted law allowing security forces to treat protesters as outlaws. In response, Morsi, a serene person by nature, was outraged. In an interview that appeared in the brotherhood´s main publication, Morsi threatened that if the military council interfered in the vote-counting process the brotherhood would unleash the protesting masses to continue the revolution.

Threats in the same vein have been voiced in the past, specifically from the man who was initially nominated by the brotherhood for president, the engineer and businessman known for his militant attitude toward the regime, Khayrat el-Shater. Morsi´s threat, however, even exceeded el-Shater as he sent a message of defiance toward the central power authority. Morsi said it could not be discounted that the brotherhood would call on protesters to sacrifice themselves in honor of those who had already been killed in past protests (whom he calls "shahids," or holy martyrs).

The increasing severity of Morsi´s tone represents a new intensity to the rivalries simmering under the surface in Egypt. As is known, the brotherhood identified the potential in civil protest and utilized the opportunity to make their assault on the positions of power.

After winning the public´s support at the beginning of the year, the brotherhood is not prepared to suffer arbitrary measures aimed at sabotaging its advancements. However, as Morsi and his cohorts are shooting off threats toward the military council and emphasizing their commitment toward religion and Islamic law, they are taking into account the negative consequences that could accompany such a reality, especially if Morsi is elected. Morsi, therefore, has repeatedly stated the brotherhood´s obligation to treat secular and Christian citizens with respect, and has also spoken in favor of women´s rights.

During the election campaign, Israel´s name was also thrown into the mix. In this regard, according to Morsi, Israel supported Mubarak and is backing Shafiq and the military council. Morsi has also attacked Shafiq and the heads of the military council, accusing them for remaining silent about incidents on the Israeli-Egyptian border and the natural gas agreements between the two countries.

Be the final election results as they may, it is not unreasonable to assume that Egypt, or its city squares, will erupt again, and not in the least because the authority of the president is not yet constitutionally defined and the parliament could be dispersed.

The writer is a visiting lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern History at the University of Haifa and a research fellow at the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.


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