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Egypt's Future Unclear Following Islamist Ouster


A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throws stones at riot police during clashes in the Ramsis square area in central Cairo, July 15, 2013.

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi throws stones at riot police during clashes in the Ramsis square area in central Cairo, July 15, 2013.

Nearly two weeks after the Egyptian army's ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood is still giving no sign it is ready to join the country's political transition process.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour has called for the Islamist group to join the military-led transition and take part in upcoming votes to decide on a new constitution, parliament, and president.

But the Brotherhood has refused, insisting that doing so would essentially be giving approval to what it views as a military coup against the government of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

"The entire political process is nothing more than a sham. And participating in it gives it legitimacy," said Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, in an interview with VOA.

'We've already gone through a presidential election,' said Islamists

It makes little sense, Haddad said, for the Brotherhood to try to win elections as it did for the past two years, if it is does not believe that Egypt's military will allow it to take power again.

"There is no guarantee the military will not do this again," he said. "We've already gone through a presidential election, we've gone through parliamentary elections, we've gone through a constitutional referendum."

It is understandable for the Brotherhood to doubt the assurances of the military, say some analysts, who point out that the Islamist group was banned for decades under successive military-dominated governments.

New framework should 'guarantee democracy,' prevent authoritarianism

Egyptian political commentator Nervana Mahmoud said the key is for Egypt to first come up with a framework to limit the power of those who win elections. Under such a system, she said, Islamists would have nothing to fear.

"If the Islamists win [elections] again, they should be allowed to rule," said Mahmoud. "But the rest of Egypt will not accept it unless there is a serious platform of the right constitution, the right laws, that guarantee democracy."

Critics accuse Morsi of using his year as president to attempt to monopolize power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. They also said his government failed to protect minorities and did not address the country's struggling economy.

Many of Morsi's opponents deny that the military ouster represents a coup, saying the move was supported by days of mass protests calling for him to step down. But Mahmoud said such a debate is irrelevant.

"The coup happened. Whether we like it or not, whether we debate it is a coup or not, it happened, and we have to move on. And I feel there's no desire to move on, particularly on the Islamist side," she said.

Involving Brotherhood difficult, but necessary

But some say reconciliation may be difficult, since the government has issued arrest warrants for many senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Further complicating the matter is the military's role in last week's killing of more than 50 Morsi supporters at an Islamist protest in Cairo.

But Adel Abdel Ghafar, a visiting scholar with the American University in Cairo, said the only long-term option is to include the Brotherhood in the political process. He said failure to do so raises the possibility of long-term political instability.

"Of course, [the Islamists] would be very cynical about participating. But the other option is quite dark. It's basically civil war, and I don't think anyone in Egypt wants to go down that path," he told VOA.

The Brotherhood realizes that Morsi is not likely to be reinstated, said Ghafar. He said the group will probably try to negotiate a deal that would allow its senior members to get around criminal charges and keep some of their power.

But for now, there are few signs that any such negotiations are taking place. And, at least publicly, Brotherhood officials say they plan to keep up the daily protests calling for Morsi's reinstatement, even if the effort looks futile.
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