All of the political elements in Egypt need to conform to democratic norms. At present, only a minority of the politically active people in the country are doing so. In these peculiar circumstances, the best course would be a broad-based cabinet, with Mohammed Morsi continuing as president, including a considerable number of technocrats – that is, comparatively neutral administrators.
Many liberal democratic activists are inviting the armed forces to carry out a coup d’état, paradoxically risking a return to the largely military regime that lasted from 1952 to 2011. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces maintains that it has no intention of executing such a coup, but it has nonetheless presented an ultimatum. If President Morsi does not comply with “the people’s demands” (which are unspecified in the ultimatum), SCAF will impose a “road map,” which, by some accounts, would mean a suspension of the Constitution and dissolution of the parliament.
Mr. Morsi, who was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected by a very narrow margin, and he should have tried to govern according to a wide consensus. In particular, he should have more consistently accepted court decisions – even if some judges have shown some evidence of bias from the previous regime.
The Arab Spring was not expected. The Muslim Brotherhood was not prepared for government, and it was not similar to an opposition party in a liberal democracy. All this shows, painfully, in Mr. Morsi’s and his party’s performance. But apart from the military itself, and the network of people around Hosni Mubarak, the former president, there was – and is – no other well-established opposition party with a mass following. Consequently, Mr. Morsi’s victory was not surprising.
The huge and prolonged demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere are very impressive, but in the medium to long term, they are no substitute for a large, well-organized secularist political party. But no magic can suddenly summon such an organization into being.
It would be unfortunate to start again from scratch with a new coup d’état, and thus reverse all the institutional change that has been achieved so far – including the legitimate, but regrettable election of Mr. Morsi.
The only political hope for Egypt in the short term lies in a grand coalition of secularists, moderate Islamists and a healthy number of competent technocrats.