My latest is up at FPM and in it, I talk about what’s happening in Egypt.
Objections by liberals and secularists to the unilateral decision of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) to prorogue parliament went unheeded despite nearly 80 lawmakers signing a letter to el-Katatni calling on the speaker to rescind the order to suspend the lower house, or the People’s Assembly. The letter contained the complaint that the decision had not been put to a vote by the full chamber. Members who objected remained in their seats, refusing to leave even after the session was adjourned.
But the protest was a sideshow to the real drama - a tense confrontation between the FJP and its allies, and the military. Both sides appear to be testing the limits of their power in post-Mubarak Egypt. The military is seeking to reduce the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that the FJP would take away many of the perks and power of the soldiers under a new, Brotherhood-written constitution. The FJP, with the backing of the revolutionary street, has been flexing its muscles in parliament by trying to undercut military rule and shoulder its way into the government. The ruling military council led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi has often found itself at odds with the Islamists, but is so politically unpopular that any pushback is immediately met with large protests in Tahrir Square. The army has the guns, but the Brotherhood has the backing of the people. Tantawi has not forgotten what happened to Mubarak, hence, he has taken a cautious approach in handling parliament.
The Islamists have been calling on the military government to fire the cabinet for weeks. They have threatened to stage a no-confidence vote in the el-Ganzouri government despite threats from the military that such a vote was illegal, that only the military council had the power to remove ministers. This latest ploy by the FJP to suspend parliament for a week has apparently moved Tantawi to give in to some of the demands and bring Islamists and others into the government. But an unidentified spokesman for the military said on Sunday night that any changes to the cabinet would be “limited.” This will likely not sit well with the FJP
In suspending parliament, el-Katatni said, “It is my responsibility as speaker of the People’s Assembly to safeguard the chamber’s dignity and that of its members. There must be a solution to this crisis.” On April 24, parliament rejected the military’s economic and political program, which is akin to a “no confidence” vote in many parliamentary democracies. But neither side apparently wants to test the other in what would be a dangerous showdown between the two competing power centers in Egypt.
The Salafists, while still allied with the FJP, find themselves in disarray as a result of their charismatic leader’s ousting from the presidential race. Many members of the Nour party plan to stay at home on election day, while others complain that they are being marginalized by the Muslim Brotherhood. Still others want the movement to give up on politics and concentrate on reforming society so that it reflects fundamentalist Muslim tenets. There have been several resignations from the Nour party in recent months reflecting these feelings.
That’s why the Nour party backing of Fotouh is more a tactical move than related to any particular stand on the issues by the former Brotherhood member. Nour, as any political party, wants to back a winner and Fotouh is emerging as one of the favorites among the 13 remaining candidates for the presidency. While the FJP candidate, Mohammed Mursi, won the endorsement of the ultra-conservative clerical association, the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reforms, the Nour party leadership went with Fotouh as a hedge against what they see as the growing dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood - an organization they see as too eager to acquire political power.