One thing I really like about Marc Lynch is his humility, as evidenced in his Thursday post at FP: “I was joking on Twitter yesterday [Weds] that the expert consensus that today [Thurs] would be a big crisis day in Cairo probably meant nothing would happen, since everybody (including me) is always wrong.”

Well, as it happens, yesterday (Thurs), the Cairene house of cards caved in when the Constitutional Court lived down to everyone’s expectations and not only ruled in favor of Shafiq’s right to run in the presidential elections, but also dissolved the newly elected Parliament for having violated its own rules in running parties for independent seats. The thing is, they’re right on both counts, but those rules are holdovers from the previous regime (i.e., the current regime), and in making that call, the Court has announced that it firmly stands with the SCAF against the people. Perhaps more importantly, it signals that any chance of the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood coming to some sort of political arrangement is dead.

The SCAF’s power grab in the final days looks more like panic than the execution of a carefully prepared master scheme. It likely reflected a combination of fear of rising Islamist power, self-preservation, and growing confidence in its ability to control street protests.  The prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood controlling Parliament and the presidency likely scared them more than many people conditioned by speculation about a MB-SCAF alliance recognized…. Of course it wanted to preserve its economic empire and political protections. But both of those were constant over the course of the transition, and don’t explain its heavy-handed moves at the climax of the process. 

I couldn’t agree more. What then is in store for the future? It seems to me that the most important question now is what will the Brotherhood do with this news? They were immediately convening strategy meetings, last I heard, but I’m not sure if they’ve decided anything. Many will likely boycott the runoff election this weekend. The Brotherhood may, therefore, decide that their lead over Shafiq is enough that they should continue with the process; that they have more to lose than gain by exiting the process, sham though it may be.

As Lynch says:

The SCAF likely believes that a renewal of massive, sustained protest is no longer in the cards through a combination of its own repression and relentless propaganda, along with the strategic mistakes by protestors themselves. It doesn’t feel threatened by a few thousand isolated protestors in Tahrir, and probably is gambling that they won’t be joined by the masses that made the Jan. 25 revolution last year. They may also feel that the intense rifts of suspicion and rage dividing the Muslim Brotherhood from non-Islamist political trends are now so deep that they won’t be able to cooperate effectively to respond. Or they may feel that the MB would rather cut a deal, even now, than take it to the next level. They may be right, they may be wrong. But I wouldn’t bet on stability.

Nor would I, though the relative quiet on the streets may suggest otherwise. I think it likely that the Brotherhood will decide that since a deal could not be worked out with the SCAF (and I assume here that they’ve been trying), that the only real option for them is take things back to the street. If so, they will this time lead the revolution from the start. They may also try to mobilize their members in the military. If the SCAF isn’t watching for that, they’re likely dead already. If they are … well, any way you look at it, this seems likely to get messy.

This weekend and next week seem like critical moments in determining what comes next. I find it difficult to think that there’s any future without blood in the streets in store, but politics are often surprising, and stranger deals have been cut in darkened rooms.

The SCAF may be right that the Brotherhood is still willing to deal, but we can’t ignore that the next move may well be the start to the real revolution—the equivalent to the October Revolution in Russia vice the earlier February Revolution that put the members of the Duma in charge. Are Moursi and Shater up to the Leninist mantel? We’ll see.

Advertisements