(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood knows how to collaborate with the military, which has ruled the country for 60 years, but seems to be reluctant to share power with the liberal and revolutionary forces, which mounted the uprising that freed the country from repression.
President Mohamed Morsi adopted a novel and apparently independent line when he took the oath of office by swearing it last Friday before a throng of thousands in Tahrir Square, during the formal empowerment on Saturday before the constitutional court, and on Sunday at a gathering including members of the dissolved parliament, at Cairo University.
He then attended a ceremonial hand-over staged by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which assumed presidential and legislative powers upon the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, on February 11, 2011.
During all these ceremonial occasions, Morsi praised the military fulsomely even though most revolutionaries and many liberals accuse the armed forces of human rights abuses and usurpation of power. Rank and file brotherhood members also take this line.
As an Egyptian friend observed, "the army and the brotherhood are two sides of the same coin". They have managed to coexist for decades in spite of being, politically, poles apart. Now he observed they may have to "co-habit" in governance.
During his first days in office, Morsi reached a deal with the SCAF on the division of control over ministries and functions of the government. According to the deal, the military will retain its control over the budget and internal affairs, but will not seek to impose its will on the commission drafting the new constitution. The brotherhood has ceded control of the defence, interior, justice and, perhaps, information ministries to SCAF, while it will permit Morsi to take charge of the key ministries of finance, foreign affairs and the rest.
There are suspicions that in the days before Morsi's victory in the presidential contest was acknowledged, there were backroom negotiations to reach a power-sharing arrangement that would satisfy both sides, at least for the time being. This has left SCAF in charge of defence, police, intelligence and justice.
Some analysts argue that this arrangement will allow for a prolongation of the old regime, in which the military played a major political and economic role.
Other commentators hold that Morsi and the brotherhood have no choice but to be pragmatic in their dealings with the SCAF, which holds the levers of real power in the state.
Adding icing to the cake of reconciliation with SCAF, Morsi also met members of the police and security officials to reassure them that he will not seek revenge against them for their harsh treatment of members of the brotherhood over decades. However, it is unlikely that the security personnel, indoctrinated to consider fundamentalists as the enemy, will respond positively to his overtures, particularly because he is expected by his constituency, liberals and revolutionaries to purge officers who have violated the rights, and killed opponents and critics of the fallen regime.
For the past 16 months, revolutionaries and liberals have been calling for the military to release or retry thousands of prisoners detained during the uprising and sentenced to terms of imprisonment by military courts. If Morsi fails to tackle the generals over this issue, demonstrations could begin anew in Tahrir Square. Last weekend, hundreds of family members of political prisoners demonstrated outside the presidential palace, demanding their release. Quick results are needed.
Meanwhile, fundamentalists have not absorbed the lesson they should have learned when the SCAF disbanded the initial constitutional commission, because they had taken full control of this body. Instead, they selected a brotherhood member as the commission's rapporteur, a figure from Al Azhar was chosen to head the key "Basic Principles of the State Committee" and a ultra-orthodox Nour Party member as one of his deputies. Other major posts on the commission have also been shared out among fundamentalists.
Unfortunately, Morsi is relying on senior brotherhood figures and members of its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, to carry out contacts on the formation of a new government. Instead of relying on these colleagues, Morsi should have selected a transition team from all groups belonging to the revolutionary camp. By narrowing the membership of the team to brotherhood people, Morsi has demonstrated that he is not serious about being "president of all Egyptians", because all Egyptians are not supporters of the brotherhood or other fundamentalist groupings.
He needs the backing of non-brotherhood Egyptians to ensure that the post-Mubarak regime escapes domination by the "deep state", comprising the military, elements of the judiciary, key officials in the administration, businessmen and media.
The make matters worse, Morsi appears to be permitting brotherhood members and Salafists to dictate his choice of prime minister. Al Ahram Online reports that three public figures, including Nobel laureate Mohammed Al Baradei, have been vetoed. If Morsi chooses an unknown or a technocrat as his prime minister, he risks losing credibility with a wide range of Egyptians, even with many who voted for him.
Finally, by failing to challenge SCAF over its handling of the state budget, Morsi has, before devising programmes to provide the poor with food, healthcare and education, stripped such projects of funding. SCAF pre-empted Morsi by making the allocations before he took office, and there is little scope in the 2012-2013 budget for carrying out populist welfare projects Morsi promised.
Even his decisions to raise public sector and military salaries and pensions by 15 per cent could fall victim to the lack of allocations in the SCAF's budget. Unless he secures control of the budget and finds funds for his programmes, he will rapidly lose grassroots support.