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Why is dialogue not accepted by Egypt's opposition?

January 25, 2014 at 1:31 am

Is the opposition in Egypt really interested in reaching a national consensus or not? This is the obvious question following recent statements from some opposition leaders signalling their refusal to get involved in, or imposing impossible conditions for, dialogue with the government. This suggests to me that the revolutionary fervour is being used to try to create conditions for a coup against the democratically-elected president. Do the opposition leaders believe that by escalating the conflict a coup will result so there is no need for dialogue now? That a national consensus will prolong the life of the government which they want to fall and replace with their preferred candidates?

If President Morsi made certain promises prior to his election which he has failed to fulfil then he is at least in part responsible for the absence of dialogue and lack of confidence in such talks. The recent “national dialogue” was followed by Muslim Brotherhood representatives announcing that the movement is not committed to it, so the process was reduced to useless chit-chat. This is the context within which the current impasse must be viewed because it has dampened enthusiasm for dialogue.

However, there is a difference between approaching something half-heartedly and not approaching it at all. I also see a difference between having political differences which can be talked through and encouraging crowds onto the streets of Cairo and other cities, bringing them to a standstill in a frightening atmosphere of violence and destruction. The situation has gone too far and has to be dealt with in a way in which it is contained and not aggravated. In the name of “democracy” the opposition is using decidedly undemocratic tactics.

President Morsi is currently facing two problems. The first is the opposition which challenges him, taking power from the crowds on the streets and backed by a media hostile to the government. The second problem is that society had high expectations after the revolution but has not seen any tangible improvements in daily life, nor have viable promises been given about the future.

It is not true that the crowds came out in response to rallying calls from the opposition; they were there to commemorate the revolution and renew their demands for freedom and dignity. The people have been used cynically by those groups and factions who want to overthrow the democratic decision of the electorate to choose a Muslim Brotherhood government. In Tahrir Square, the crowd was actually surprised to find that opposition parties had already erected a platform and were broadcasting anti-government propaganda; this is not what the people went there for.

I once heard one of them claim on a television show that the demands of his group were the demands of the people. This is baseless because the people he claims to represent, the ‘elite’, are actually chosen by the media and not the masses. Moreover, the only way they would ever gain legitimacy is if they are subjected to the democratic process, which will determine their true significance and what they represent in the eyes of the people.

In this chaotic atmosphere, the opposition and media would have us believe that the demands of the default elite are the same as those of the people, and that the abolition of the constitution, the reduction of the Brotherhood to a lesser role and the dissolution of the Shura Council will achieve the goals of the revolution. This is intended to make those who won the election look politically inept and provide a platform for opposition personalities to jockey for positions of power and influence; it has nothing to do with the revolution and its goals. That is why the opposition leaders are shying away from dialogue by insisting on impossible preconditions; to do otherwise would expose their real intentions to the people. That is also why dialogue is essential, sooner rather than later.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.