The latest plan for a new political order in Egypt makes a little more sense than the previous such process, in 2011, set in motion by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But the shooting by the security forces of more than 50 Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators on Monday is, to say the least, ominous, even if the first shots did not come from the side of the authorities, as they claim.
At any rate, Adly Mansour, the interim President appointed by SCAF, is right to have laid down a logical sequence. This time, the constituent assembly – the body tasked with drafting a constitution – is to do its work before there is a new parliament. After all, a legislative assembly should have to comply with a constitution, not the other way around. Previously, the parliament that followed the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, the former president, appointed the constituent assembly. The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies had the predominant position in that parliament. Politicians are not often inclined to surrender advantages, and the Brotherhood was no exception. The constitution-making process became so skewed that some of the liberals just gave up in disgust.
Mr. Mansour, seconded from his position as chair of the Constitutional Court, is ostensibly a neutral figure. He ought to make sure that the constituent assembly has fair representation of all the major elements of Egyptian politics. Indeed, Egypt as a whole would benefit if the current regime does not behave like a product of a coup d’état; after all, the United States has not yet decided whether the recent events amounted to a coup; such a finding would result in the cancellation of annual aid of about $1.6-billion.
Mohammed Morsi, the deposed president, and one of the leaders of the Brotherhood, apparently still under house arrest at an undisclosed location, showed no great statesmanlike deftness during his months in power, but the military should cease to act as it it were on a civil-war footing, in a state of martial law, and let him go.
The schedule for the transition plan is overambitious. The constituent assembly will probably need more time. The future of Egypt depends on some decent degree of consensus.