Egypt's path towards political transition is taking an ever more challenging series of twists and turns.

Following the Arab Spring, Egypt saw its first freely-elected civilian president. Then, soon after, it encountered a military overthrow. 

Now the army has called on the people to take to the streets on Friday. It has made clear that it intends the day to mark a turning point in its confrontation with the followers of Mohamed Morsi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.

And this is raising the question of whether what happened at the outset (the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011) was indeed a revolution, or rather an uprising.

What's going on in Egypt is not an Egyptian affair. There are so many parties involved. People from the Arab region, from the Gulf region. Probably the United States of America, who's given the green light to the coup against democracy. This is actually a war against the Arab Spring. This is an attempt to abort the Arab Spring, because there are still regimes in the region who are terrified that the spring might reach their borders. The fight for democracy in Egypt today is a fight for human dignity across the Arab region.

Azzam Tamimi, the director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has asked for a mass turnout at rallies on Friday to give the army a mandate to do what it sees as necessary to stamp out violence, thereby setting a collision course with supporters of ousted President Morsi.

"Are you willing to destroy the country in order to rule it? Would that be religious? Are you willing to ruin the army or have it on your side? It is not possible. It is a very grave matter?" said Sisi, addressing a military graduation ceremony.

"I urge all Egyptians to go to the streets on Friday to give me a mandate to counter violence and terrorism. This is a request to all Egyptians to show the whole world that the Egyptian people have a will and have a say."

Sisi's comments have, however, been described by his opponents as a call to war.
"Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who claimed in his first statement that he had to remove the elected president in a military coup to escape a national conflict and civil war, is now calling for a civil war himself to protect his military coup.
"He is proving that he is the actual president for the country and that the president, his vice president and the government do not actually hold any power," said Mohamed El Beltagy, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Supporters of Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood have continued to hold daily protests since he was removed from office by the army earlier this month. Since then, at least 100 people have been killed in clashes with security forces.

Egypt's transition has been likened to shaking the foundations of the old regime without dismantling it. That would require structural change that some argue has been prevented by what has been called "the deep state".

The police are said to be one part of the deep state. Their leadership has not changed since the revolution and some have accused them of working against Morsi by not fully deploying during his presidency. The judiciary is another, as many of Egypt's senior judges were appointed during the Mubarak era. 

Corruption within the state bureaucracy could be another aspect of the deep state. And in the private sector, many business elites are still aligned with the old Mubarak regime. That includes a hostile media establishment that has generally shown itself to be anything but partial.

Adly Mansour, the interim president, has outlined a timetable which envisages changes to the constitution and a referendum, which should pave the way for elections early next year.

But can there be national unity between groups with such widely differing ideologies and values? And are revolutions enough to achieve democracy?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Mike Hanna, is joined by guests: Zakaryya Abdel-Hady, an assistant professor of Islamic thought and culture at Qatar University; and Azzam Tamimi, the director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought.

Inside Story was unable to include guests from Cairo on the programme to balance the discussion, because our service providers in Egypt were informed by the authorities that they could not provide services to the Al Jazeera network for "security reasons".

"Let me just make it very clear that this is not two sides fighting over democracy. It is one side that is fighting and dying for democracy, that has been dreaming for the last 60 years. And there is another side who want to kill democracy .... And suddently we have the military back again after just one year break. For six years we have been having them and now they are back. So it is a fight between people who are pro-democracy and people who want the military regime back again."

- Zakaryya Abdel-Hady, assistant professor of Islamic thought and culture at Qatar University

Source: Al Jazeera