Skip to main content

The Future of Egypt's Opposition

Egypt must experiment with strategies for exercising legitimate political pressure, with the aim of bringing President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood into a more inclusive democratic process, writes Bassem Sabry.
An anti-Mursi demonstrator holds pans reading, "Mubarak - Mursi" during a protest near the High Court in Cairo March 29, 2013. Anti-Mursi demonstrators marched the streets of downtown Cairo, protesting orders taken by prosecutor general, Talaat Ibrahim, to arrest five activists last week, a step the opposition decried as a reversal for democracy. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTXY287

By late November, it seemed as if Egypt’s opposition had finally found its mojo. It was more united than ever, now under the new banner of the National Salvation Front (NSF). It had common, clear and precise public goals. It was capable of instigating massive public protests that at least rivaled those of the Islamists, and people seemed to actually be looking up to them with some degree of hope. The opposition had the president and the Brotherhood increasingly cornered, and the possibility that the NSF might come out as victors from November’s constitutional crisis, or the political conflict that ensued, did not seem entirely far-fetched.

Nearly five months later, the story looks drastically different. An image of internal disharmony surrounds the NSF. Morsi and the Brotherhood increasingly appear to be on the opposite end of a checkmate, and seem rather more emboldened and comfortable with unilateralism. The opposition has gotten very few, if any, of its core demands. Other than failing to stop the aggressive pushing of the divisive constitution, the opposition’s unachieved demands include getting detailed commitment to amend the new constitution in a consensus-building manner, sacking the controversially appointed current prosecutor-general, changing the Hisham Qandil government with a new and neutral cabinet until the elections (a less prominent alternative was a national coalition government), an agreeable electoral law, and more. The response? Morsi did reshuffle the cabinet a few days ago, but he defiantly kept Qandil and also brought in a few more Brotherhood members and loyalists, a sign of not feeling much pressure. The streets of Egypt also appear to be increasingly devoid of any mass protests. What’s more, a recent opinion poll has indicated that while Morsi’s popularity has fallen to its lowest level ever, the NSF’s popularity seems to be painfully suffering as well.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.