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Inside Story
Political rift threatening Egypt's democracy
As the country's military leaders trade accusations with the Muslim Brotherhood will this further divide the people?
Last Modified: 29 Mar 2012 10:16

Egypt's future remains as uncertain as ever 14 months after the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The country's ruling generals and the biggest political party appear locked in a struggle for control.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has postponed an open confrontation with the military rulers and other political players by delaying a decision on whether to field a candidate for the presidential elections.

"Everybody who is opposing this constitutional committee please, give us one other option how to form this committee…This draft is going to be put to a referendum, to the people to vote so if they don't like they can say no."

- Nader Omran, political committee member, Freedom and Justice party

Meanwhile, members of a controversial panel responsible for drafting Egypt's new constitution have elected a Muslim Brotherhood member, Saad al-Katatni – currently the speaker of parliament – to head the committee.

A number of liberal, leftist and independent figures withdrew from the panel, accusing Islamists of monopolising the process that is expected to deliver the post-revolution charter.

It is a process that could determine the balance of power in Egypt and the country's future identity.

On Saturday the Muslim Brotherhood released a statement that heavily criticised the government. It hinted at the possibility of the movement fielding a presidential candidate and mentioned the controversy surrounding the make-up of constituent assembly.

The ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) responded with its own statement on Sunday, hitting back at its critics and defending its intentions.

It added what many saw as a veiled threat: "We ask everyone to be aware of the lessons of history to avoid mistakes from a past we do not want to return to, and to look towards the future."

"At the moment there is very limited representation in the major political processed that Egypt is witnessing…most of the revolutionary youth groups could not organise themselves to be able to become political parties."

- Omar Ashour, the director of Middle East studies, Exeter University

The non-Islamist groups have decided to form their own panel to write a constitution they say will properly represent all the interests of Egyptian society, and they have invited Islamists to join them.

Mustafa el-Gendi, a Liberal MP, said: "There will be a parallel 100-member committee to draft the constitution; it will include the best of our Egyptian experts who are being consulted in writing rite constitutions in other countries, including Nobel Laureates, the genuine youth of the revolution and those who have supported our revolution from Day One."

Liberal members of parliament have made it clear they want the whole of Egyptian society represented in drafting a new constitution.

So, is the Egyptian revolution still on course for a democracy? Is the growing rift between two powerful forces threatening to further divide the country? And, what is in the best interest of all Egyptians?

Joining this discussion on Inside Story with presenter Hazem Sika are guests: Sameh Seif el-Yizal, a former Egyptian general who now heads the Al Gomhouria Center for Political and Security Studies; Nader Omran, a member of the Political Committee of the Freedom and Justice Party; and Omar Ashour, the director of Middle East Studies at University of Exeter.

"The problem came that SCAF refused the idea for the short period left until June 31…since that time the Freedom and Justice party accused SCAF of many issues which SCAF responded to that's why it's getting a bit hotter between the two parties."

- Sameh Seif el-Yizal, a retired Egyptian general


Who controls what in post-revolution Egypt:

  • As widely predicted, Egypt's Islamists triumphed in the country's first freely held parliamentary elections in 60 years. The Freedom and Justice Party won 47 per cent of the votes, and combined with Salafist parties, gave the Islamist bloc more than 70 per cent of the seats.
  • Similarly the committee responsible for writing Egypt's new constitution has about 60 members out of 100 who have Islamist leanings.
  • Egypt's current cabinet was appointed by the country's military leaders and is headed by Kamal al-Ganzouri, the Egyptian prime minister who used to serve under Mubarak. But the cabinet has little confidence from parliament, prompting many politicians in recent weeks to call on the military to dissolve the government.
Source:
Al Jazeera
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