The American Kafir

2011/01/31

Egypt’s Government To Negotiate with Opposition

Filed under: Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood, National Security, Radical Islam, Shari'a Law — Tags: — - @ 6:53 pm
Created Jan 31 2011 – 14:32

Egypt's Government to Negotiate with Opposition
KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian secular opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei addresses demonstrators in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on Jan. 30
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Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said Jan. 31 that President Hosni Mubarak had ordered him to hold talks with “all political powers” in Egypt. Suleiman also said new elections would be held in districts in which constitutional appeal courts found “violations” had taken place during the November 2010 parliamentary elections.

This would mark the first time Mubarak’s government has offered to negotiate with the opposition and is thus a significant development in the ongoing crisis. These talks likely are only happening at the strong insistence of the Egyptian military, which is increasingly in charge of the political affairs of the country. The Mubarak regime has made a few attempts to placate protesters, most notably by reshuffling the Cabinet. However, in the military’s view, these sorts of gestures will not be enough to facilitate an orderly transition of power, and the military has thus pushed the government to speak with those who claim to speak for the demonstrators.

This is more problematic than it seems, however, because the protesters have as yet been unable to coalesce under one opposition group. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is the single-largest opposition group, but there is no one group or person that appears to be the vanguard of the unrest. The only person that comes close to that role is Mohamed ElBaradei, the former U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency head turned secular democratic opposition leader. While ElBaradei lacks significant grassroots influence, many both inside and out of the country see him as the informal face of the opposition. Though the MB has rejected the formation of the new Cabinet, it appears to have agreed to ElBaradei being the point person to negotiate on behalf of the opposition, though there is discord within the MB on that as well.

It is still unclear why Mubarak has offered talks in the first place. It is important to note that the opposition, in addition to demanding Mubarak’s resignation and the creation of a neutral interim government before commencing talks, has said it wants to negotiate directly with the Egyptian military. In offering talks, Mubarak could be attempting to prevent this. Indeed, if the offer for talks is sincere, Suleiman’s negotiating experience makes him an obvious choice to represent the regime, having served as a key mediator between Hamas and Fatah and between those two groups and Israel.

However, a second possibility is that Mubarak is attempting to divide and discredit the already-disunited opposition. The pragmatists in the opposition may seek to capitalize on the offer while others, insistent on a neutral caretaker government, refuse, demanding talks with the military. This opens the opposition up to charges that it refused an offer for negotiations, making it appear to be an obstacle in the process.

Regardless of motive, the government’s move to reach out to the opposition may temporarily calm things down. But without a unified opposition, chances are good that no resolution is forthcoming — which could further anger the protesters and lead to more chaos.


Source URL: http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110131-egypts-government-negotiate-opposition

Links:
[1] http://www.stratfor.com/theme/egypt-unrest
[2] http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110131-update-egyptian-crisis
[3] http://www.stratfor.com/analysis/20110128-mubarak-dismisses-egypts-government

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