A showdown between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling military is unlikely to turn violent, analysts say, but the Islamists must avoid repeating mistakes if they want to stay in the political game.
On Saturday, the Islamist-led parliament received a notice saying Egypt’s ruling generals had decided “to consider parliament dissolved,” after a court ruling that annuled the house.
The move was swiftly rejected by the powerful Brotherhood, which had won 47 percent of the seats in the house, and called for a referendum on the decision.
The confrontation between the two political powerhouses came as Egypt was wrapping up a presidential poll pitting the Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi against Ahmed Shafiq, a former airforce chief and premier to president Hosni Mubarak.
But analysts say the war of words is not likely to translate into violence.
“I don’t see an Algeria scenario,” said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo University, in reference to the Algerian civil war in 1991 after the military took power following an Islamist legislative win.
“It was a different context. In Algeria, there was violence from both sides. But in Egypt, for the moment there has only been threats through statements,” said Sayyed.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising, seemed to stop the transition in its tracks on Saturday when it declared the house dissolved and reclaimed legislative power.
“Constant threats to dissolve parliament, elected with the will of 30 million Egyptians, confirm the military council’s desire to monopolise power,” the Brotherhood’s political arm said.
“Dissolving the elected parliament must go to a fair referendum,” it added.
The type of confrontation between the two camps will depend on the outcome of the divisive presidential election, according to Sayyed.
“If Shafiq wins, supporters of the Brotherhood will demonstrate, but I think there will be a limited confrontation, sometimes violent, a kind of message to their supporters, before they adapt themselves to the new dynamic,” said Sayyed.
If Mursi wins however, it will open a new chapter between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate whose powers will remain limited and with legislative power in the hands of the army.
Military sources told AFP on Sunday that in the absence of parliament, legislative powers and control of the state budget would revert to the SCAF until new elections take place.
A new legislative poll “will lead to a different kind of parliament. This will allow the military institution to impose the shape of its role in the new regime,” wrote political analyst Hassan Nafea in independent daily Al-Masri Al-Youm.
Ibrahim al-Houdaiby, an expert on Islamist movements, also dismissed the prospect of widespread violence between the Brotherhood and the generals.
“The Brotherhood will use a strategy of pressure to gain posts before finally adapting their politics,” he said.
The Islamist group “has made mistakes during the transition period… that raised concerns,” Houdaiby said.
The group sought more seats in parliament than it had first declared and fielded a presidential candidate after it said it would stay out of the race.
It also sought to dominate a constituent assembly that was to write the country’s new constitution, before it was dissolved by a court ruling for failing to represent all Egyptians.
The legal and political chaos and the difficult choice of candidates have garnered support for the boycott movement or pushed many voters to choose the “least worst” candidate, many told AFP.
According to Washington-based political analyst Hesham Sallam, whoever wins, the military will maintain a strong degree of influence in politics.
“Irrespective of who wins, you don’t know who will be president but you know what kind of presidency it will be, one that is subservient to SCAF,” Sallam said.