Compromise or chaos - Mursi's choice
Dubai, July 1, 2013
By Una Galani
Mohamed Mursi promised inclusivity when he was elected president of Egypt one year ago, but the Arab world's most populous nation is more divided than ever.
The streets are paralysed by rival protesters in the biggest demonstrations since 2011. Social tensions have been exacerbated by the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed leadership to mend the broken economy or improve security.
Few predicted the Islamist movement would fall so short of expectations. It was never going to be easy to repair the decades of mismanagement under Hosni Mubarak. A biased judiciary, unruly police, and remnants of the old regime may have made progress difficult, but the president's incompetence and apparent determination to serve the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood above everything else have destroyed his political capital.
Egypt is in a terrible state and getting worse each day. The country remains without a parliament. Mursi's offer last week to form a panel to review the country's controversial constitution is too little too late.
Since the start of 2011, the pound has depreciated 21 percent against the dollar. Inflation is rising rapidly towards double digits. Egyptians that were already on the poverty line are sinking below it.
The resignation of the country's first freely-elected leader - as demanded by the opposition - is unlikely to put Egypt on the right path. A dialogue of the government with other political forces would be more effective than a "second revolution".
Neither side can afford to ignore the other. A return to military rule would be a big step backward. And the poor organisation of the liberal opposition means that ultraconservative Salafi groups would probably gain the most from fresh elections, making a democratic Egypt an even more distant reality.
To find stability after so many mistakes, Mursi needs to make a grand gesture. As well as tearing up the constitution, Mursi should appoint a new independent prime minister and a government reflecting the true diversity of the opposition. That government could then try to muster support for the critical reforms needed to kick-start growth.
Only if both sides give up a bit of ground can they avoid plunging the country into a worse state than it is currently in. - Reuters Breakingviews
* The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
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