Following the removal from power in Egypt of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, experts are expressing concern that their exclusion from any future government might be detrimental to the country's stability and might even trigger a civil war. Some say that political reconciliation between Islamist forces and the civilian caretaker government installed by Egypt's military might offer the only way forward. VOA's Susan Yackee discussed the issues at hand with Jason Brownlee, a professor at University of Texas in Austin and an expert on Egyptian affairs.
Following is a partial transcript of the interview. To listen to it full, use the audio player at the bottom of this post.
Yackee: Isn't there a lack of faith in Egypt right now?
Brownlee: Egypt is as divided as I have ever seen it, and I have been visiting the country for nearly 20 years. And it's hard to see the way forward from here. The question on the table really is – how do you prevent a civil war. How do you prevent things from becoming much-much worse, and continuing to go in the direction that we saw on Monday (violence that killed dozens of people). I think right now the responsibility is in the hands of the military. They've taken charge and they need to quickly find means of reconciling the different political forces, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yackee: Speaking of the Muslim Brotherhood, do you think they will ever be able to be a part of a government there?
Brownlee: Yes, I do think that they can be part of a government, and it's vital that they are integrated into the government. I think the past week's actions by the military isolating the deposed president and then detaining top figures from the Muslim Brotherhood was very counterproductive for any hopes of getting reconciliation. There was talk at the time of the coup of bringing the country together but instead the military has exacerbated the existing divide.
Yackee: What advice would you have for the new government in Egypt?
Brownlee: My advice would be to focus on this political reconciliation, which I think needs to happen at a personal level among the main political forces before you proceed to writing or revising the constitution. There has been talk of how putting the constitution first and then having parliamentary elections, and then having the presidential elections last, is the correct sequence for the transition, and that the sequence followed in 2011-2012 was incorrect. But if you don't have political agreement and some type of political accord among the major political forces, you are going to wind up right back where you started on June 30 (massive protests and counter-protests between Morsi opponents and supporters). So I think it's very important that people come to some kind of understanding, otherwise you will get another highly controversial constitution followed by divisive elections.