June 19th, 2012
12:08 PM ET

Compromise is inevitable in Egypt

Editor’s note: Khairi Abaza is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and he is also a former senior official in Egypt’s secular liberal Wafd party. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Khairi Abaza.

By Khairi Abaza, Special to CNN

Egypt’s historic presidential election will not settle the future of the country in one fell swoop, but it traces the contours of a new regime in which the key political actors may ultimately be forced to compromise with one another.

Though Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was named president-elect Sunday, in a sense it doesn't matter whether he won or lost the runoff to Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister in former dictator Hosni Mubarak’s final hours. After 15 months, neither the military nor the Muslim Brotherhood has the wherewithal to grind the other out of existence.

The two sides have different interests, but neither is prepared to shed rivers of blood in a futile attempt to dominate a highly fractured country. And while the stalemate is in many ways uncomfortable, it shows that the only way to bridge the fissures between factions is to implement a pluralistic democratic system based on liberal democratic principles.

Before the runoff even took place, voting results proved that Egypt has no true majority party. Morsi drew support from various Islamist factions and secularists who refused to vote for the old order, while Shafiq capitalized on secularists and people so fed up with skyrocketing street crime that they were willing to endorse a candidate tainted by Mubarak. However prominent the Islamists are, they are not a majority.

Last week, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a constitutional declaration saying it will keep legislative powers until a new constitution is drafted and a new parliament is elected. This might take a few more months. It also reserved the right to intervene in the event of developments that they perceive endanger the goals of the revolution.

Egypt is now entering a phase that resembles the “Turkish Scenario” of the mid-1980s, in which the military claimed the right to interfere in domestic politics whenever they determined that the system was in danger.

But the military also recognizes that without Mubarak’s intelligence apparatus and interior ministry, it simply can’t keep a lid on the country. As a result, it is transferring partial power to a civilian government and to a president who will have some executive powers but be obligated to seek military approval for his decisions until a new constitution is adopted.

The transition has had many flaws, and there are surely more to come. Yet for the first time in 60 years, the military has become a political actor in Egypt rather than the political actor. The generals and the political parties will simply have to find ways to compromise, or they will end up with no country to fight over.

And despite all of the recent setbacks, the new president will have an opportunity to salvage the transition to democracy. He can extend an olive branch to constituencies he didn’t win this time around but whose support he will need to take Egypt into the future.

The election is neither a big step forward nor a big step backward for Egypt. It is but one step in a process. Yet with each day that passes without major violence, it becomes harder to revert to a military regime, and harder to descend into a new Islamist autocracy.

Isn’t that progress?

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Khairi Abaza.

Topics: Egypt • Elections

soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Shut up already ..you anti american shills. All you do is spew crap

    compromise? lol....uh huh...like in lebanon where hezbollah RULES the govt and people? like iran where they crush their own citizens? syria?

    get these muslim shills on cnn off our air! we dont need your lies and contextualization....

    by the way, where is tom friedman who told us last year that the MB would never get elected and would be marginalized. fool...

    lastly, iran negotiations are a farce...time to bomb those jihadis back to the stone age.

    June 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • Quigley

      Here goes another right-wing nutjob spewing his ignorance on this web page. However, I am surprised that Ahmed Shafiq didn't win as I thought that the fix was in. Unfortunately, Egypt needs Socialism but there were no Socialist or leftist candidates on the ballot.

      June 20, 2012 at 7:30 am | Reply
    • momo0828

      You cannot bomb people back to the stone age when they are already there.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Reply
  2. daveinil

    So the best outcome of the "Arab Spring" in Egypt is a compromise government between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. Please remind why this is different from the previous government of the military and a secular dictator.

    June 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      A compromise between the two historic foes would be difficult. The ruling generals of the military council, the SCAF have ruled the country by means of emergency law for 30 years and have a hard time to re-invent themselves. They enjoyed countless privileges and are reluctant to give up their ill-gotten gains and jobs for life.

      June 20, 2012 at 5:07 am | Reply
    • Roscoe Chait

      The compromise will be that a general who controls the military will declare himself emperor for life... again.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  3. Phillip Hamilton

    (laughter) Yeah, you know, there's awesome precident for that statement. All that awesome amount of compromise that region of the world has demonstrated before now...

    June 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
    • 100 % ETHIO STRONGER!

      We don't want the Jewish Mind-set either. You are anther troublesome, but not awesome, as you describe it.
      Jewish without US is the person without Soul.

      I bet you, without US, you will never existed. We keep baby sitting you. Grow-up. Forever Baby!

      June 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply
  4. 100 % ETHIO STRONGER!

    I don't understand, which section of the Qura'n they want to follow/not to follow.
    The current Muslim Egyptian are not true Egyptians. Muslims never existed for many years of Egyptian history.
    Therefore, the Muslim Egyptians must go back where they came from:- Albania, Turky,.. They came to rob and they are still there, causing to much problems.

    June 19, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • TRUE AMERICAN

      This is the whole truth and only the truth!

      June 24, 2012 at 3:57 am | Reply
  5. JAL

    There is no compromising when the levee breaks. Fix what needs fixing, or stop cashing paychecks.

    June 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  6. Larry of the Dune

    The Arab conquest of Egypt (639–42), only some 20 years after the rise of Islam, made the country an integral part of the Muslim world. Until the 19th cent., Egyptian history was intimately involved with the general political development of Islam, whether unified or divided into warring states. Under the Umayyad caliphate many of the people continued their adherence to Coptic Christianity despite the special tax exacted from infidels. Eventually, the settling of colonists from Arabia and the increased conversion of peoples to Islam reduced the Christian population to a small minority. The Greek and Coptic languages went out of use, and Arabic became the predominant language.

    The Abbasid caliphate (founded c.750) at first held Egypt under complete subjection, but the unwieldiness of its vast domain encouraged provincial governors to revolt and to assert their own rule. In the 10th cent., Egypt fell to the Fatimid claimants to the caliphate, who invaded from the west. The Fatimids founded (969) Cairo as their capital, and with the establishment (972) there of the Mosque of Al-Azhar as a great (and still active) Muslim university, they further emphasized the change of Egypt from an outpost of Islam to one of its centers.

    Read more: Egypt: History — Infoplease.com http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/world/A0857911.html#ixzz1yHv1uugS

    June 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  7. Larry of the Dune

    What Muhammad and Akhenaten had in common:

    Both were born into families who worshipped hundreds of pagan gods.
    Both actively worshipped as pagan polytheists until their conversions to monotheism as adults.
    Both were strongly influenced by the monotheism of other religions. Jews and Christians.
    Both converted to a form of monotheism, where they continued to worship one pagan god. We call this repackaged polytheism.
    Both elevated obscure, lessor known deities to the top position. Aten and Allah
    Both chose the gods of celestial objects: sun and moon.
    Both banned the worship of all other pagan gods but the one pagan god they had selected.
    Both retained the name of the old polytheistic gods which the general population were familiar with: Aten and Allah.
    Both retained pagan practices and concepts in their new found monotheism.
    Both employed symbolic logos to represent their gods: solar disk with sun rays. Although Muhammad my not have directly adopted the crescent moon symbol, it was adopted shortly after his death.
    Both made themselves the highest human representative on earth for their gods. High priest and Muhammad the last and greatest prophet.
    Neither men performed any miracles or displayed any divine powers as both Moses and Christ and the apostles did when Judaism and Christianity were begun. Muhammad was a prophet without supernatural power.

    June 19, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  8. Larry of the Dune

    How Muhammad and Akhenaten differed:

    Akhenaten's chose a lower ranking god "Aten" to be his highest god, whereas Muhammad chose "Allah" who, although not the most popular god, was considered to be a top ranking god.
    While both were former polytheists converted to monotheism, Akhenaten continued to worship the sun itself, whereas, Muhammad's merely retained the disk of the crescent moon as a symbol for the one true god "Allah" who created the sun and moon. In this regard Muhammad's monotheism was superior to Akhenaten's. But then again, Muhammad had a 2600 year advantage of history over Akhenaten!
    Akhenaten's religion was one that did not require faith as it worshipped the visible sun as god. Muhammad's religion does require faith as it worships an invisible god.
    While Muhammad continued to worship the same pagan moon god in the same pagan temple (Kaba) before and after his conversion to monotheism, Akhenaten created a new temple in a new city for the old pagan god. The symbols and rituals of Islam are re-enactment rituals borrowed from the Bible with a grotesquely distorted mythical twist. We suggest Muhammad would have done much better had he hired a more imaginative "new religion writer". Akhenaten is clearly superior, for like Judaism and Christianity, Akhenaten realized that a new religion needed unique symbols and meanings. Muhammad failed to come up with anything new, but heavily plagiarized other religions and local myths. Akhenaten gets points for originality. While Christ introduced unique and new spiritualized meanings to physical Judaism, Islam merely creates physical re-enactment's of historical events as seen in the "stand", "walk" and "throw" rituals of Islam. These ritual re-enactment's evoke emotion, in the same way a remembrance day service does, but nothing new is happening.
    Akhenaten tolerated some other religions to be practiced under his domain. Muhammad murdered those who attempted to openly practice Christianity under his domain.
    Akhenaten was a pacifist who deplored "murdering his opposition for conquest" as most other Pharaohs practiced. Muhammad, on the other hand, "evangelized with the sword". In the absence of miraculous signs and powers, Muhammad chose the necessary path to ensure his newly invented religion would endure. Akhenaten's religion of monotheism collapsed shortly after his death, while Muhammad's has endured the centuries.

    June 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Reply
    • 100 % ETHIO STRONGER!

      These should be on My favor show, Larry King. I will e-mail it to him.

      June 20, 2012 at 12:57 am | Reply
      • Larry of the Dune

        You do know that Larry retired, dont you?

        June 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Matt A.

    Compromise might imply ruling by democratic means. I doubt its possible in Egypt, Syria, and increasingly less so, the United States.

    June 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  10. Voiceinthedesert/Troubledgoodangel

    In my view, to avoid this Muslim animosities Egypt needs a Coptic transition president imposed by the UN. This will assure peace and will safeguard the "Glorious Arab Spring", at least by putting it on hold.

    June 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  11. clearick

    Egypt has a long way to go, and it should be expected to be somewhat rocky as people who until now were without power, try to get some. Politics in Egypt needs to grow up and develop a more sophisticated message and a clear set of policies. The Egyptian people aren't being given the choices they need, so whatever happens now should be regarded as temporary. Until the people are satisfied, there will be pressure on the leaders.

    June 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  12. rnevelle

    Where does the Muslim Brotherhood stand on Israel? Why isn’t the media covering that issue?

    June 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  13. rnevelle

    The United States must stand with Israel now more than ever.

    June 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
  14. 0hmama

    Israel and US are two countries that were created by criminals from the west. Criminals share common values. Hell for both sooner or later. GOd bless Hitler the good jew

    June 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Reply
    • Roscoe Chait

      You are a very bad boy. Your mother is looking for you with a glass of water and your antipsychotic medication.

      June 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • 0hmama

        Your mother looking for your true father. mail man, garbage man, anyman. Could be me.

        June 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. mmi16

    The only thing Egypt has to look forward to is Civil War with the contested 'results' of the 'election'.

    June 22, 2012 at 5:10 am | Reply
  16. TRUE AMERICAN

    There is only one lord and his time is comming quickly look out Egypt

    June 24, 2012 at 4:00 am | Reply

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