Egypt will never stop surprising us. And today we had a new proof of this. The new president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, ordered the reestablishment of the Egyptian Parliament, which had been dissolved by the Military Junta following a verdict of the Constitutional Court. Here there are some keys to try to understand the last crisis of the turbulent Egyptian transition:
-How should we interpret the decision to reinstitute the Parliament? Under the light of the showdown between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. By reinstating the Parliament, Morsi tries to snatch the legislative authority from the Military Junta (or SCAF), and give it back to FJP, the electoral wing of the Brotherhood, which controlled the dissolved Parliament (The SCAF took over the powers after dissolving the low chamber).
-Is this a wise move? Not clear. It would be wise if it led to a political victory, and that remains to be seen. So far, it is a risky move because its legality is doubtful, and the army is the strongest player in this power struggle. Since it seems that both the SCAF and the Brotherhood have renounced to use violence in their battle of wills, the future of Parliament will probably be decided by the courts. And in that playing field, the SCAF has an advantage. The high echelons of the judiciary are still dominated by Mubarak loyalist, who are strongly secular. So it is tough to see a victory by the Islamists there.
-What will happen now? Most likely, the SCAF will not accept the decision and Egypt will have two parallel legislative powers. So if the current political situation was not already chaotic, now it will double. At the end, the conflict will require and agreement between both sides … or a progressive increase in the confrontation that may take us back to the time where the Muslim Brotherhood was forbidden. That would be the worst case scenario, since there would be violence in the streets.
-Do the US support the move? This is the most intriguing question of all. The announcement arrived just a few hours after Morsi met with William Burns, the Deputy Secretary of State. In his public statement, Burns said that “it is crucial that the elected Parliament works”. Did he already know about Morsi’s move? Was this a statement of support to the reinstatement of the Parliament? Personally, I doubt that. Obama’s policy towards the Arab Spring has been characterized by an extreme caution. Although it is true that the relations between Washington and the Islamists have improved, it would be very strange that the US interfered in such a divisive domestic affair as the reestablishment of the Parliament.