The unsaid in second round negotiations

There’s been some buzz over the last day or so over a proposal for a national charter by secular, liberal, non-felool forces (aka most of the small parties in the Egyptian parliament) as well as several ideas over some kind of deal with the remaining presidential candidates on the shape of government. I keep seeing stipulations such as “no MB prime minister” or “vice-presidents from outside the MB” that makes it clear that these initiatives are largely targeted at candidate Mohammed Mursi. I barely see anything about negotiating with candidate Ahmed Shafiq.

I also — and I believe this is a big omission — see no details about restricting the powers of the military, getting rid of SCAF and retiring the generals who currently serve on it, overhauling the General Intelligence Services, or anything else that has been considered largely beyond the pale of political and media discourse since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. It kind of reinforces the feeling that a) most political activists seem to think the greatest threat is the Islamists, since many of the points are about preserving a secular state, b) there is not much courage out there (at least among the professional politicians) about raising the issue of the deep state, the military and the security services. Is this resignation, perception of what's realistic, of lack of imagination?

While some of Egypt’s Islamists are certainly worrisome, and the country has a past of terrorist violence coming from the extreme fringe of a wide-ranging Islamist spectrum, most of the damage done to the country in the last 30 years came from the regime, not the Islamists. Of course some may make the argument that the average Egyptian is more interested in decent governance and a return of economic growth and security than some of these other issues. It’s an arguable point, but besides the point if we ask the question, what does the political class want? Right now, 15 months after Mubarak was removed from power, I am still not sure I know the answer to that question. I hope the full statement from these “liberal, secular, non-felool” forces that is supposed to come out tomorrow clarifies things somewhat, but it also seems that some of these questions should have been addressed a while back.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.