Egypt's military-backed interim president, Adly Mansour, has unveiled a plan to amend the country's suspended constitution and hold elections within six months. The announcement of the transition timetable, which was quicker than expected, was seen as a bid to reassure Egyptians that the army intends to restore civilian rule after its overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that dominated Morsi's government, rejected the plan, calling Mansour's government illegitimate and urging Brotherhood supporters to protest in the streets. The Brotherhood is seething over the deaths of more than 50 Islamist protesters shot by soldiers on Monday. Is there any chance that quickly holding new elections will keep Egypt's crisis from spiraling out of control?
It's anybody's guess whether the military will deliver on the promise to restore an amended constitution, elect a parliament, and set up a vote for a new president in such a short period. Howard University political science professor Mervat Hatem tells PBS that the killing of Islamist protesters this week amounted to a serious threat to the transition. The army and liberal political leaders will have to find ways to make amends and bring the Brotherhood back into the equation, Hatem says, but at least the promise of speedy elections is a step in the right direction.
The fact that it does promise all these changes in a very short period of time should be reassuring, I think, for those who wanted the military to commit itself and the government to commit itself to firm dates... It does reassure people that this is not an open-ended — a process that allows the military to do the kinds of thing that transpired [Monday] and which obviously have a danger element. [PBS]
If what happened under Morsi proved anything, it's that Egypt's democracy experiment will fail unless the government is inclusive and responsive to the needs of all Egyptians. Tamara Cofman Wittes notes at CNN that "Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood apparently didn't get the memo." But the U.S., she says, can make sure Egypt's generals do, by enforcing the U.S. law requiring Washington to cut off aid until the government the military installed after its coup is replaced with one elected by the people.
The U.S. law is designed to give coup-established governments a strong incentive to return their countries to democratic rule — aid can resume as soon as new democratic elections are held. The African Union, which has strengthened its democratic norms in recent years, has already suspended Egypt's membership because of the military's intervention into democratic politics. The U.S. law should be invoked in the Egyptian case, and used to hold the Egyptian military accountable for swift progress on their transition road map. [CNN]
The success and impact of Egypt's next vote will hinge on the degree of reconciliation between now and election day. "It will not be possible to exclude the Muslim Brotherhood from those elections without turning the whole process into a farce," says syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer. The leaders of the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi included, "were utterly unprepared for power," Dyer says, and "they are now likely to be replaced by a younger generation of leaders who are more flexible and more attuned to the realities of power. They might even win the next election, despite all Morsi's mistakes this time round."
That's the real irony here. If the opposition parties had only left Morsi in power, his unilateral actions and his inability to halt Egypt's drastic economic decline would have guaranteed an opposition victory at the next election. Now it's all up in the air again.
But democratic politics is far from over in Egypt. Foolish things have been done, but the Arab Spring is not dead. [Salt Lake Tribune]