Egypt’s opposition parties appear to be united in their demand for President Mohamed Morsi to step down, according to a noted Middle East analyst, but they are not unified on how he should be replaced.
Nezar Al-Sayyad, chair of the University of California Berkeley’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, says a large percentage of the protesters want to remove Morsi from office, but they fear the alternative, which is military rule.
At the same time, Al-Sayyad says, the demonstrators need the military to force president Morsi from power.
“That is an impossible equation because for them to remove Morsi, they need the military,” he said.
Al-Sayyad said the only workable succession plan is one that is being floated by some of the anti-Morsi forces. It calls for the president to be removed, then replaced temporarily by the head of Egypt’s Constitutional Court under semi-military rule.
Egypt's Constitutional Court would be in charge of coming up with a committee to draft a new constitution that would be approved by public vote and for general elections within three months. For now, Al-Sayyad said, Egypt finds itself in a stalemate.
“What is going right now in Egypt is a tremendous degree of confusion, basically between the president and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt [SCAF],” Al-Sayyad said.
“The military has actually been on the sidelines since they handed power to Morsi more than a year ago,” he added. “It seems that they are now coming back into the picture by having issued an ultimatum to him to basically respond to the popular demand of the millions who are demonstrating in the streets.
Ultimatum deadline is Wednesday
The military issued its ultimatum on Monday, saying Morsi had to reach a deal with the opposition by Wednesday or the Army would step in with its own plan.
“As you know, Morsi has categorically rejected the military’s ultimatum, invoking that he is the supreme commander of the armed forces,” Al-Sayyad concluded.
Late Tuesday night, Morsi went on national television and said he was democratically elected a year ago and had no intention of resigning. He called on the Army to go back to its barracks. Al-Sayyad conceded that while Morsi was democratically elected, he won by by a very slim majority.
“In fact his [Morsi’s] election was probably as much contested as the election that brought George W. Bush to the presidency over Al Gore,” he said of the U.S. presidential balloting in 2000.
Al-Sayyad said a big problem for Egypt's opposition is that its various components are not agreed on what comes after Morsi.
“They have different alternatives, and hence, they are not united in what happens after they remove Morsi,” Al-Sayyad said.
Constitutional Court plan endorsed
Al-Sayyad said the Constitutional Court proposal seems to be the only workable succession plan put forth by any opposition forces.
“They actually have a plan, and it’s a very sensible plan,” he said. “Their plan is that the head of the Constitutional Court can rule temporarily under some kind of military rule in which the military will secure the streets and bring back security.”
Then, he said, the Constitutional Court would “be in charge of coming up with a committee that will redraft the constitution for a vote by the public and for elections within a limited period of time of only three months.”
President Barack Obama has said the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and has not sided with any particular political group there.
Al-Sayyad said some Egyptians are interpreting Obama’s statement as standing behind Morsi because he is the elected leader of Egypt. But the analyst said the problem with that is that Morsi has lost all legitimacy with millions of Egyptians.