It is impossible for the moment to say what’s going to happen in Egypt. But there are two basic scenarios:
– The armed forces, which have declared martial law, will continue to control the real power and will use the Muslim Brotherhood leader who has become president, Muhammad al-Mursi, as a figurehead. Evidence for this includes the fact that the military is the current source for legislation in Egypt and controls foreign policy.
– The armed forces will impose a sweet deal on al-Mursi, letting him do pretty much what he wants as long as he doesn’t touch the military’s economic wealth and the army as an institution. The armed forces will determine who becomes defense minister and will set their own budget. Perhaps the generals will also insist al-Mursi doesn’t go too far in threatening Israel or antagonizing the United States (placing U.S. aid to the military in jeopardy).
Events could go either way, and it might take a while to see what’s happening since presumably it will take at least six months to elect a new parliament and another six months to write a constitution. In addition, the precise arrangements will be very important. Is the military only saying “hands-off” towards its economic empire and autonomy, or does it seek far more power? Will it effectively restrain the Muslim Brotherhood from possibly provoking war with Israel?
The other political forces in the country are more openly tipping their hands. The radical Salafists will try to outflank the Brotherhood in militancy, but are likely to cooperate with it on lots of things. Many of the moderate “liberals” are also supporting the Brotherhood.
The radical Salafists will try to prove their militancy compared to the Brotherhood, allowing the Brotherhood — along with Western media and governments — to portray the Brotherhood as moderate. For example, the al-Nour party says it would ban the sale of alcohol, both to Egyptians and tourists, and would close down the beach resorts that cater to Westerners. Almost certainly, al-Mursi will oppose doing anything to hurt Egypt’s tourism industry. He would do it for financial reasons but the West would interpret this as showing that al-Mursi is a pragmatist and moderate.
There are other things that might go unnoticed, yet which are far more important. Will al-Mursi interfere in Egypt’s official religious hierarchy by trying to replace the two highest officials (the qadi and the head of al-Azhar University)? While the relative moderation of establishment figures is often hypocritical and inconsistent, it would nevertheless play some role in limiting the Brotherhood’s extremism.