The arrest and imprisonment on Wednesday of Essam el-Erian, the most senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood still at liberty – though already in hiding – are yet more proof that the Egyptian government has reverted to a regime very much like that of Hosni Mubarak, the former president.
The two major political forces in Egypt, the military and the Brotherhood, have both shown an inability to accept a potential alternation of power, or the concept of a loyal opposition.
The period between the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the election of Mohammed Morsi as president was a brief moment of hope. In the June, 2012 election, there was only a narrow margin between the two candidates in the second round, Mr. Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, a cabinet minister under Mr. Mubarak. That ought to have led both sides to look for consensus.
Instead, the Brotherhood used its parliamentary majority to self-servingly skew of process of drafting a new constitution. Mr. Morsi’s move was a provocation, and many liberals welcomed the coup d’état of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces led by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi – whom Mr. Morsi himself had appointed.
Gen. al-Sisi and SCAF have proved more ruthless in their own overreaching. Security forces have assaulted and sometimes killed demonstrators, while the leaders of the Brotherhood have been taken into custody and charged with serious crimes. A former close colleague of Mr. Mubarak, Major-General Mohammed Farid al-Tuhami, is now reportedly the military regime’s leader in the strenuous repression of the Islamist opposition.
Less than two years after hopes were raised by Egypt’s version of the Arab Spring, the military’s hold on the country is more stifling than ever. It is almost as if the Tahrir Square demonstrations had only been a passing dream.