Both the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Opposition Act as If They’re Playing a Zero-Sum Game

When Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi announced his constitutional declaration last November granting himself unchecked powers, as well as announcing his intentions to go ahead with plans of enacting an Islamist-backed constitution, he was in effect undermining his own legitimacy in the eyes of those who oppose him. Meanwhile, the Egyptian opposition of secularists, nationalists, women groups, minority groups and those who just hate the Muslim Brotherhood went back to Tahrir Square demanding to have their way or no way. As a result both sides entrenched in their respective positions and engaged in a war of elimination, which led the economy to go from bad to worse and sharply polarizing and dividing the Egyptian society.

President Morsi was elected fair and square in the only democratic election Egyptians ever experienced in the modern era, and he deserves to have his chance at governing. That said, however, he should not treat this as a license to undermine the very democracy Egyptians, had sought for decades.

At the same time the Egyptian opposition groups are trying to wrest power from Morsi by forcing him to cancel his controversial decrees that pertain to the constitutional referendum scheduled to take place this coming Saturday. But the manner through which the opposition groups are fighting this battle especially by appealing to foreign powers to intervene on their side is troubling. This kind of divisive political warfare resulted in pushing president Morsi and with him the Muslim Brotherhood into a bunker mentality and equally ready for a drawn-out, yet unnecessary, fight.

The core problem in Egypt is that no one seems to be interested in giving democracy a chance or the time to work or even willing to accept the idea that in a democracy winners and losers can still work together. What’s happening in Egypt today is that every group, whether the governing Muslim Brotherhood party or the opposition of all colors and persuasions, are engaged in a zero-sum game or winner take all.

President Morsi is mainly accused of being more interested in consolidating his and the Muslim Brotherhood powers at the expense of others and acting as if he was elected for forty not four years and behaving as if his name is Mohamad Hosni not Mohamad Morsi.

Adding to the problem is that Arab political culture, Egypt included, is still authoritarian and dictatorial despite the trappings of democracy in the post Arab Spring era. This is because politics in the Arab World revolves around the “charismatic leader” who should save the nation even though he often times ends up destroying it. The Arab world needs good presidents, not Messiahs.

Ali Younes is a writer and analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at: [email protected] and on Twitter at @clearali.