Egypt stands on the brink of serious political confrontation as tens of people have been killed every day since the huge marches a week ago. On Sunday, more than 35 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed following several incidents from both sides as the supporters and opponents of deposed president Mohammad Mursi clashed with the security forces. It is important that all sides step back from the brink of sustained violence and find a more political way forward.
Mursi’s supporters have called for his reinstatement and have challenged the army’s right to intervene in politics and remove an elected president. The army acted last week after more than 14 million people marched to call for the end of Mursi’s presidency. They loathed the way he had betrayed his democratic mandate by agreeing to the suspension of parliament by the Supreme Court and ramming through a narrowly Islamist constitution. His arrogance in power alienated whatever support he had gathered from outside his Muslim Brotherhood party, like when all non-Islamist members of the constitutional assembly walked out and Mursi simply decreed to himself sweeping new powers that overruled the Supreme Court’s right to review the new constitution.
At this time, all parties should remain in contact to ensure a pluralistic approach to taking the country forward. Many will disagree with the army’s action, but the dangers of continuing the dispute on the streets with the obvious risks of spiralling violence makes it essential to return to a constitutional government. Therefore, it is a mistake for the extreme Islamist Nour Party to withdraw from talks over forming the new government, even in protest against yesterday’s fatal shootings. The interim president appointed this week by the military, former Chief Justice Adly Mansour, is struggling to find an interim prime minister acceptable to both leftists and Islamists. But Egypt needs a governing authority that can hold the country together so that all Egyptians can move forward to new presidential and parliamentary elections and find a more secure long-term future.