Egypt has been plunged into confusion by the judicial coup mounted against the recently elected parliament, which was dissolved by a ruling of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.
The Egyptian army undoubtedly acted behind the scenes, using the court as a sock puppet to limit the power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated the parliamentary elections along with other Islamists.
Egypt’s difficult transition to democracy has now been set back to square one just ahead of the runoff elections for the presidency on Saturday and Sunday. The two candidates, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and the Mubarak regime’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik, were the candidates who least embodied the idealistic democratic goals espoused by the young revolutionaries who led the initial phase of Egypt’s uprising.
The Muslim Brotherhood has warned that if Shafik wins, there will be a violent backlash. It is reportedly involved in backroom talks with the army over a power-sharing arrangement that would head off a political confrontation. But regardless of which candidate wins, the new president will enter office with undefined powers, no parliament, no constitution, and no clear path out of Egypt’s mounting political and economic crisis.
The Obama Administration has been quiet in recent days as it sorts out the confusing events in Cairo. But Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at a high school graduation in Virginia on the day of the judicial coup, presumptuously praised the “Arab Spring” as a “democratic movement that swept across the Middle East” and appeared oblivious to the events in Egypt as well as the bloody chaos in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.
The Obama Administration appears to have been caught off-guard and is once again scrambling to catch up to events in Egypt. The Administration’s weak reaction earlier this year to the persecution of U.S.-funded pro-democracy non-governmental organizations may have encouraged Egypt’s anti-democratic forces to conclude that they would pay a small price for hijacking Egypt’s democratic experiment.
Now Egypt appears headed for even greater political turbulence as it drifts further away from the democracy that Biden and others naively believed was inevitable.