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For one thing, Morsi will be severely constrained by the military council that has now appropriated most of the executive and legislative powers in the government. This is why most analysts believe that Morsi will be extremely cautious at first in challenging the military’s decisions regarding the dissolution of parliament and the constitutional assembly — a body that the generals will now appoint. In effect, Morsi has been caught in a bear trap: he will receive the blame for the lack of improvement in the economy, while the military avoids public responsibility. Joshua Stacher, a political scientist and Egypt expert at Kent State University, points out that the bureaucracy is made up largely of Mubarak holdovers who will seek to thwart Morsi in most of his reforms. “What this does is it has made SCAF [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] king-like,” says Stacher. “It allows them to have this expanse of executive and legislative power, while the blame will be shifted onto the people who emerge from the ballot box.“
Morsi, who is seen as a rather colorless and ineffective politician compared to the man he replaced on the ballot, al-Shater, engenders little confidence even among his friends that he can govern effectively given the circumstances. Mohammed Habib, a former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood, was asked by the New York Times whether Morsi has what it takes to meet the challenges of his office. Mr. Habib said, “No, he doesn’t.”
As a practical matter, Morsi’s task seems near impossible. The levers of power are firmly in the hands of the generals, there is no parliament to pass his program, an entrenched bureaucracy of potential enemies awaits him, and hostile courts which may yet declare his election null and void when they take up the issue of the legality of the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, in September. There is a ban on religious-based political parties and given what the Supreme Court just did to parliament, it is not out of the question that Morsi may find his election declared illegal.
But that’s in the future. For the present, Morsi finds himself on the horns of a dilemma: if he appears too compliant with the military, he may lose the support of the Egyptian street, which seems inclined for the present to grant him a honeymoon period. But if he challenges the military too directly, he invites a backlash by the generals.
His first decisions may be instructive. Morsi says he will not be sworn in unless it is before the members of parliament who were recently dismissed. And he has asked his supporters to remain in Tahrir Square until the military reverses its power grab. Both statements can be seen as challenges to the military’s authority. But there is also behind the scenes negotiations going on with the generals that may see some sort of compromise emerge. “Nobody should doubt there is going to be deal-making,” said Shadi Hamid, director of the Brookings Doha Center. “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still has the tanks and guns and the Brotherhood still understands that. There has to be some temporary power-sharing agreement,” he said.
Deal or no deal, no one should expect the Muslim Brotherhood to change its goals. Nor should anyone expect the Brotherhood to alter its Islamist outlook on the world. The group will be anti-Western, anti-Israel, anti-Christian, and intolerant of women’s rights, as well as supportive of terrorist groups like Hamas. This, the Muslim Brotherhood cannot change, no matter how many speeches President Morsi delivers, how many soothing words he speaks that sound so inviting to some western ears.
It is what the group was. It is what the group is. And most decidedly, it is what it will be as it struggles with the military for control of Egypt.
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