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Dunsmore: Egyptian Standoff

06/29/12 7:55AM By Barrie Dunsmore
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(Host) Even with the election of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi as the country's first-ever freely elected civilian president, the Egyptian Revolution continues to look uncertain. Today commentator and veteran ABC News foreign correspondent Barrie Dunsmore reviews where things now stand.

(Dunsmore) From the moment the thirty year dictator Hosni Mubarak was swept out of office by a broadly based popular revolution, there were two basic questions.

One: Would the 84 year old opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, become the major political force in a democratic Egypt?

Two: Would the firmly entrenched Egyptian military - which had wielded not only total political power for decades but had also taken over control of the country's economy - ever be willing to cede power to a civilian authority?

Sixteen months later it would seem the answers are:

Yes - because the Muslim Brotherhood has won the key elections for both parliament and the presidency.

And no - because the Egyptian military has strongly signaled it will not turn over real power to civilian control.

What exists in Egypt for the moment is a standoff - between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces - over who is actually going to run the country. Just two weeks before June 30th, the date the generals had promised to hand over power, they instead issued a series of decrees which stripped away most of the powers of the presidency and shut down the Islamist led democratically elected parliament. The army also created its own body to write a new constitution which would preserve the military's primacy - and martial law was re-imposed.

Mohammed Morsi, the new president-elect is 60 years old. He earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California and later taught in Egypt. But he is best known for his fundamentalist views within the Muslim Brotherhood. He became the accidental presidential candidate, when Mubarak-era judges banned the Brotherhood's first choice.

By most accounts, Morsi's inclination would be to turn Egypt into an Islamist state with limited interest in women's rights, minorities or Egypt's liberal traditions, But in his first address Morsi went out of his way to appeal to all Egyptians, promising to respect the rights of women, Christians and secular Muslims. As he put it, "I will serve all Egypt. There will be no distinction between anybody."

That commitment is making a virtue out of necessity. For if Morsi is going to successfully challenge the authority of the military, he is going to need broad support - including from the secularists and liberals whose passionate protests led the revolution.

An all-out bloody confrontation is certainly possible, but not inevitable. There is one idea circulating, that having made their point, the generals may now step back to allow new parliamentary elections and a new Constitution acceptable to both sides. In return they would expect that key military, security and intelligence functions would remain under their control.

The benefit of such an arrangement would be stability - which is essential to attracting new foreign investment and tourism so that Egypt's crumbling economy can be restored. Sounds plausible. However like most major revolutions, after just 16 months the Egyptian version is far from having run its course.
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