President Morsi Can Mobilise His Supporters To Swamp The Secular Opposition. But That Would Not Be A Wise Move
Mehmet Ali writes from Cairo: The 200,000 protesters in Tahrir Square have sent a clear message to President Mohamed Morsi: ‘We don’t recognise you as our President’.
How will the Mr Morsi, new to national politics, respond? He has two options: continue on his path to turn Egypt into an Islamic republic or back off for the moment. If there were a general election tomorrow the signs are that the Islamists – the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafists – would gain a majority. The poor in Egypt overwhelmingly vote for them. And there are many poor in a country of 82 million. So another intriguing question is: will the MB and Salafists bridge their differences and rule together?
The protesters in Tahrir Square are middle class, secularists, liberals, Coptic Christians, socialists, Trotskyites and of various other European political hues. They are in a minority. Their strongest point is that if Egypt is to develop they are the people who will ensure economic growth. Hence President Morsi cannot write them off as infidels.
Morsi takes the view that eventually the only law which is valid is the Sharia or religious law. The present judiciary and legal profession do not accept this. Morsi has set himself above the present secular law. Hours of discussion with judges and lawyers have not brought any agreement. He argues that he needs to take absolute power in order to achieve the goals of the revolution. Which revolution? The secularists have a totally different vision for post-Mubarak Egypt. The gulf between the two sides is widening. This is where the military can play a key role. It is secular so is likely to support the opposition to Morsi. However the secularists want a burgeoning democracy and the rule of law. In other words, a state in which the military are subordinate to civil power.
A major task for the MB is to win over officers to their persuasion. They could then be promoted and this would achieve a bloodless takeover of the chief instruments of coercion. Obviously the military high command is aware of this and will monitor the activities of officers, first and foremost junior officers. Africa is replete with military coups carried out by junior officers.
So what tactics will Morsi deploy? Full frontal confrontation with the secularists is not on the cards at present. The MB can mobilise a million supporters to take on the protesters of Tahrir Square. Wisely it was decided to call off a planned march. On the face of it, MB supporters can swamp the secularists. However it would be a Pyrrhic victory. Why? Egypt desperately needs loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union. There is talk of $3 billion from the IMF and $5 billion from the EU. These loans will come with conditions. A framework for a modern state has to be agreed. This would involve the law of contract and secure property rights. At present Egypt is lawless or rather President Morsi is the law. This is not a recipe for economic development.
So what conditions will Washington and Brussels impose? The secularists fear that there will be a soft shoe shuffle and money will flow to Cairo. Soft conditions will be imposed which the MB can manipulate to their own benefit. Obviously the MB will use the money to strengthen supporters’ businesses. Patronage will extend economic influence further.
The secularists do not want any money to pass to Cairo at present. To ensure this they will continue their protests and hope that Morsi will make some concessions in order to get the money. It may be a vain hope.