Egypt needs a new government
The Muslim Brotherhood has run into a major obstacle in its rush to take over all reins of power in Egypt. Scant weeks after it won a referendum on a new constitution containing very broad presidential powers and promising to advance a Muslim legal system known as Sharia, Egyptians have taken to the streets to protest the apparent re-birth of authoritarian government in a democratic disguise.
The demonstrations have resulted in a growing number of deaths from confrontations with government forces.
What is striking about the new outbreaks in a number of Egyptian cities is that they appear to reflect dissatisfaction from more than just those who would prefer a secular, non-religious form of government.
Last Wednesday, representatives of Al Nour, a highly conservative religious party, agreed to call for a coalition unity government in a meeting with representatives of the National Salvation Front.
The NSF is comprised of liberal groups led by Mohammed ElBarradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which won a Nobel Peace Prize under his leadership.
The joining of hands across a cultural divide comes as a surprise, perhaps especially to the Muslim Brotherhood and its public face, President Mohammed Morsi.
The Brotherhood has counted on the so-called Salafist conservative parties to help it maintain control of parliament and cement public support for Morsi’s heavy-handed approach to governing by decree.
Adding to President Morsi’s woes, his hand-picked minister of defense, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has warned — on Facebook, yet — that the government’s failure to talk with disaffected groups has fanned disturbances that threaten “the collapse of the state.”
He doesn’t offer any ideas to repair the breach, but his comments suggest that the Egyptian military, supposedly bought off in the new constitution by winning exemption from parliamentary oversight, might nevertheless decide that President Morsi has lost legitimacy and must be removed by a coup.
A coup would bring about the worst of several difficult outcomes to the new Egyptian crisis.
It would be far better if Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood stepped back from a possible abyss and paid attention to Mr. ElBarradei and his newfound Salafist allies in their call for a broadly representative government and a review of the new constitution.