According to the news reports coming from Egypt, the escalation of tension in this country may occur in the immediate future. After Mohamed Morsi’s removal, the long-desired stability failed to triumph on the Egyptian soil. The nation is divided in half by the two equally powerful camps. The military are completely lost over the possible steps they may take. Taking power was relatively easy for them, but providing peace in the country with no legitimate government would be painfully difficult. The outburst of violence on July 8, when the army opened fire at protesters outside the Republican Guard headquarters, leaving 53 dead and many more injured, wasn’t of much help either.
There can be no doubts now that the “Muslim Brotherhood” is not going to leave the Egyptian scene. Technically they have all the aces, since Morsi is the legitimate head of the country, that was elected by the majority of the Egyptian people, and he’s in no hurry to step down. For this reason the Islamists refuse to acknowledge the interim government, discarding all offers to join the new coalition that should prepare the country for the forthcoming elections.
The chair of the Prime Minister was taken by Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist and Egypt’s former finance minister during the previous trasition period in 2011. He is a graduated from the Cairo University, he also obtained PhD in the University of Paris. He has managed to work in a number of companies, until he reached the rank of CEO in the National Development Bank before he was hired by the UN. He was an executive secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and later on took the rank of an advisor to the Arab Monetary Fund from 2001 to 2011. Which means that till that time he has never controlled anything on the State level. When he finally got appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs and finance minister at the same time in 2011.
The army shouldn’t have hurried to hand the power over to the civilians this time, but they did by introducing the new constitutional declaration that was voiced by Adly Mansour, the head of Egypt’s High Constitutional Court, who has been appointed the interim president of the State. The declaration was rejected on July 9 by the secular coalition that previously decided the fate of Morsi. The document that provided the sitting president with some authority and drew the road map for the election process has quickly become a subject of debate. The coalition got offended by the fact that the military didn’t consult any of its representatives, before publishing the constitutional declaration. The National Salvation Front has quickly announced the “rejection of the constitutional decree” stating that is should be improved. The Tammarud movement responsible for taking people in the streets against the former president has also expressed its discontent.
The reaction of the “Muslim Brotherhood” wasn’t hard to predict: “It is most unfortunate that failed politicians and a group of jurists used to raise a rumpus whenever the elected president issued a constitutional declaration, though he had legislative power, but now they bless the constitutional declaration issued by a putschist, an usurper of power, installed as head of the illegitimate administration by a group of military coup commanders” – reads the statement issued by the prominent leader of the “Brotherhood” Essam el-Erian. The Salafist Nour Party that didn’t support the coalition in its demands, all of a sudden decided to show no support to Mohamed ElBaradei or his competitors. After the unfortunate events of July 8, the Nour party announced that it won’t be supporting the road map provided by the military.
The “Muslim Brotherhood” and its followers keep on insisting that Morsi should return. There’s not a glimpse of a doubt now that they are determined to fight till the end. And if the peaceful protests don’t do the trick than they will resort to violence. For this purpose the radical militants are returning home from Syria and Lybia, but not all of them are the Egyptian residents, some are the devoted followers of different Islamic terrorist groups that seek nothing but blood. Those must be in charge for the outburst of violence on June 8, since they did their best at browbeating the military. They must as well be in charge of a number of explosions and attacks on tourists that occurred lately in Sinai. The same scenario took place in Egypt twenty years ago, when the Egyptian mujahiddins found themselves unemployed due to the withdrawal of the Soviet military troops from Afganistan. They decided to return home and carry on their terrorist activity in Egypt. They just cannot return to the day-to-day life any more. So the Islamists will cling to power at any cost and this time the opposition is torn by internal controversies and the military are hesitating.
The main feature of the current states of affairs in Egypt is the mass protests against the forced change of power. But these are a little more than the expression of discontent, they may as well herald the approaching civil war. It’s that early in the crisis that many analysts are predicting the Syrian or the Algerian scenario to take place in Egypt. The “Muslim Brotherhood” will keep gather thousands to protest, the agents of radical Islamic groups will provoke violence by expositions and by assaulting the foreign tourists, and the military will not be able to hold on forever. Once the number of casualties reaches a couple hundred, the army will unleash all the force at the opposing side. The guerrilla warfare will spread across Egypt, turning cities and villages in ruins. The civil war can last for months or even years, but the Egyptian army is no mach to the Syrian or the Algerian one, so the outcome is unclear.All of this happens on the background of the appalling poverty and an array of social problems. No matter who’s gonna win – the challenge of the winner remains the same – he must somehow feed and employ the people of Egypt.
That’s where the Russian sphere of interests lay. What awaits 80 thousands Russian tourists that currently relax after a year’s work on the Egyptian resort? Any of them can suffer injuries or death as a result of a terrorist attack or a stray bullet. The clashes between the rivalry camps that could potentially harm Russian tourist have already taken place in Hurghada. What if the civil war is unavoidable, is there a way to protect such a number of people? The military will do their best to secure the tourist areas, but can this be enough to guarantee safety at the face of merciless civil war. There’s a handful of questions that don’t get any easier over time. The fire is burning, it’s a bit early for panicking, but everybody does.
Alexander Orlov is a political analyst and an expert Orientalist. Exclusively for New Eastern Outlook.