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In Egypt, So Much At Stake - And So Much Going Wrong

Article illustrative image Partner logo Protests in Tahrir square


CAIRO As Egypt sinks deeper into crisis, the main political parties, which are fighting for power, are now starting to talk about a “national dialogue.” If they are unable to reach an agreement, the army might have to step in.

When he confused the democratic ideals of the Egyptian revolution with the political aspirations of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi led his country into a dangerous impasse. Egypt, which has never been as divided, is falling apart.

Financially, the outlook for this almost bankrupt country does not look good – hotels are empty and the Suez Canal is being targeted by rioters.

For the past two years, Egypt has been stuck in a three-cornered fight between Islamists (who won the elections), liberals (who can’t seem to get their act together), and the army (who has taken a step back since last summer). This has turned, in recent days, into a complete mess. The political parties have been overtaken in the street by new, violent and uncontrollable players. The Black Bloc anarchists are now going head to head with Islamic “white militias,” who are drumming up support Facebook.

The state of emergency declared by President Morsi in several cities has only added fuel to fire. Morsi’s authoritarianism is pushing his country to the brink of collapse. He his not only criticized by the opposition, the critics now from within the government too – from Minister of Defense and Head of Armed Forces Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, known for his allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Has the time come for a compromise? The Egyptian elite – who are sinking with the ship – have probably realized that the only thing that can save Egypt is a Hail Mary, in the form of a national dialogue. In the past 48 hours, the atmosphere has changed radically. The left wing opposition is now saying it is ready to negotiate with the president. As for Morsi, he declared himself ready to amend the controversial Constitution he has just pushed through forcibly. Even the Salafist Nour party is pleading for a “national reconciliation.”

But the problem hasn’t been solved yet. For the opposition coalition, only opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei or opposition spokesman Amr Moussa would would be habilitated to lead a national union government, because of their diplomatic pasts. No one knows if Mohamed Morsi – who has acquired a taste for power – will accept such an important concession. If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the army will have to step in. It is not known though, if this would be with, or against, the Muslim Brotherhood.

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