Bessma Momani writes: During the short-lived rule of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood complained bitterly about the “deep state” (the bureaucracy, military, security services) while liberal-secularists accused the Brotherhood of consolidating power throughout Egypt in order to push through its conservative social policies. In rebutting these claims, each side accused the other of sheer paranoia.
And now, the impending decision on former dictator Hosni Mubarak’s release from prison will only give further political ammunition to the polarizing narrative in Egypt – and ultimately tip the balance in favour of one of these opposing arguments.
For almost a year, liberal-secularists had spoken out against what they saw as the “Brotherhoodization” of Egypt, with the Morsi government and its Muslim Brotherhood supporters exerting greater control over Egyptian state institutions. They pointed to the removal of General Mohamed Tantawi and the appointment of General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as head of the armed forces; the rushed constitutional process; the appointment of Islamist state governors; and the sacking of the Cairo opera house’s director. Most importantly, liberal-secularists have complained against Brotherhood attacks on the judiciary, which started with the overthrow of the prosecutor-general and lowering the retirement age of judges in order to remove old members of the bench. These decisions have been noted as evidence that the Brotherhood wanted to forever change Egypt into a “Brotherhood dominion.”
Meanwhile, the Morsi government and its Brotherhood backers claimed they were forced to fast-track the constitution last December and were unable to implement reforms and policies because of the “deep state” – where powerful Mubarak-era cronies continued to dominate key Egyptian institutions. Throughout Mr. Morsi’s time in office, his supporters claimed that at every turn, the isolated President was unable to change the country because of fervent resistance from the judiciary, bureaucracy and liberal media. After taking office, they realized that the civilian government was a mere fig leaf for democracy; the real power-brokers were Mubarak-era business elites, the military, security and intelligence forces. [Continue reading…]