As we move ahead as a nation with a new transition plan, it’s important to note who is and who isn’t a player in this new phase, and where they fall in this new state order. People who are out of the stage of influence are both the Muslim Brotherhood and the independent Jan 25 revolutionary symbols: the former due to being the party that this revolution was created to oust, and the latter due to their usual inherent and systemic problems (lack of organisation, mixed messaging, in-fighting, etc.) coupled with a record-low popularity amongst the Egyptian public, who fairly or unfairly, after the mess of the past three years, no longer trust them or their judgment very much. Their unease with the post-30-June Egypt, while completely understandable, has placed them on the fringes of an explosively polarised political scene where there is no room for a nuanced position, for now anyway.
Facing a similar dilemma, Al-Nour Party is not seeing its best days, either. While many in the public or amidst revolutionary ranks are openly bemoaning bringing them to the table and their perceived power over the transitional process, the truth is that Al-Nour is trying its hardest to survive and failing miserably. Their vetoes against ElBaradei and ZiadBahaa El-Din, while logically expected for political reasons, drew the ire of many in the January25threvolutionary ranks.
Couple that with a constitutional declaration that has moved (inexplicably, or conspiratorially, depending on your view) their Sharia amendments (Article 2 and 192) to the first article, and many started openly wondering about the extent of the deal the military made to bring Al-Nour to the table. Those same voices completely failed to notice that without the third Al-Nour Sharia article (Article 4, giving Al-Azhar the power of Sharia interpretation), the first two articles are completely useless, for they remove the influence of the religious bodies from jurisprudence all together, as it should be. This only gives ammunition to their Islamist political and religious rivals, who never really forgave them for the “watered-down –Sharia –constitution” of last year, which has cost them the majority of their followers as well. Add to that the defamation stories and rumours flying around, and one can openly wonder how long Al-Nourwill survive this new phase. This leaves only four players left, and they are the main four players behind 30 June: the military, the judiciary, the National Salvation Front (NSF) and the old regime forces.
The military, not wishing a repeat of or comparisons with the Jan25 SCAF days, moved swiftly to give a civilian face to the new transitional period, with a president and a cabinet calling the shots over all aspects of civilian affairs, except one: national security. While understandable, their control over that area is dragging them to the forefront of the transitional period, whether they wish to be or not. Their efforts to disappear from the picture and avoid any direct clashes with the Brotherhood supporters since the Republican Guard clashes are foiled due to: 1) the continued disappearance of ousted president MohamedMorsiand his team without being charged, and 2) the continued lack of transparency regarding military operations in Sinai. As long as those two issues remain unresolved, they, and not the civilian government, will continue being the face of this transitional period.
The judiciary, on the other hand, are slipping under the radar as the new architects of the post-30-June state. One of their own is the interim president, and the constitutional declaration – without the Al-Azhar article – gives back to them the right to interpret the law regarding Sharia matters. It is worth noting that the Supreme Constitutional Court, and the judiciary in general, were specifically targeted by the Islamists underMorsi, with the siege they were placed under during the November constitutional crisis, the removal of most of their powersand half of their board with the new constitution, not to mention the Brotherhood’s proposed but aborted judiciary law, which would’ve sent half of them into early retirement. If you take all of those things into account, and the fact that the new constituent committee is made solely of either the judiciary or law professors chosen by interim president Adly Mansour, one can safely expect a mostly-secular constitution that defangs the power of Islamist parties for a very long time.
As far as the NSF goes, it is finally being tested in the government, with two of its parties’ leaders holding key positions: Al-Dostuor’s Mohamed ElBaradei as vice president for foreign relations, and the Egytian Social Democratic Party’s (ESDP)ZiadBahaa El-Din as the deputy prime minister and Minister of International Cooperation. Being the faces of the new government will not be an easy task, since they will be held responsible of a messy transitional period and the actions of a security apparatus that is not under their control from both international parties and revolutionary supporters. The rest of the NSF is expected to disband, with many of its members quietly planning for their next move. Things to expect: a revitalisation of both the ESDP and the DP in terms of members and financing given their new position as major players in the transitional period; a number of alliances and mergers to be discussed by the other key NSF members including the FEP, the Wafd Party and Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby; and fresh new faces to be their representatives for the coming presidential elections. Understanding this, AmrMoussa, who is politically savvier than the rest of the NSF leaders, has quietly resigned from the leadership of the Conference Party, while HamdeenSabahy will have a harder time resigning himself to this fate.
Finally, the old regime political forces are happy to have revolutionary parties lead the transition government to 1) have them take the political brunt of any political backlash this government will face during those hard – economically and security wise – transitional times, and 2) plan for parliamentary elections without distraction. A new unified NDP is unlikely to emerge, with many of the NDP faces will opt to join and run on the ticket of NSF parties, something they and the parties couldn’t do in 2011, but is an option now. Whether this will be based on electoral convenience or an actual honest attempt at political integration remains to be seen. Either way, they and the NSF parties will have to either come to an agreement or not fairly quickly: elections will be called in four months after all.