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Egypt's Fractured Political Class Is Outgunned by the Military

Thanassis Cambanis writes that Egypt is in a state of near panic as a fractured civilian political class seems determined to bring "lawyers to a gunfight," while the military consolidates its power. He argues that those trends will continue until Egypt's political actors unite to resist the SCAF's miserly handouts of power.
Protesters sing the national anthem as they rally against the dissolving of parliament, at the parliament building in Cairo June 19, 2012. Days earlier, the army had implemented a court ruling to dissolve the Islamist-led parliament, stripping the Muslim Brotherhood of its biggest gain since Mubarak was ousted. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih  (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS CIVIL UNREST)

From the Mediterranean coast to the desert plateau, Egypt is awash with rumors that have whipped the populace into a state of acute anxiety. Word has spread that a renewed state of emergency is imminent or that the Muslim Brothers plan to deploy a militia to the streets, that families should stock up on fuel or food because of “dark days ahead,” that a curfew will be imposed, that Hosni Mubarak’s death will delay a new president taking office or that last weekend’s election will have to be run again because of massive fraud.

The state of panic points to two sad trends: The military is consolidating power with increasing directness and public support, while the entire civilian political sphere has fractured to a degree that beggars the prospect of effective cooperation. Forget about unity in the face of a crusty military junta flush with victory. The moment for revolutionary system-change might well have passed for now. Instead, we can expect a period of retrenchment, nasty political infighting and polarization, all of which will benefit the authoritarians in charge.

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