Talks between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood are under way, and are focused on finding a legal exit for the now-imprisoned leadership of the banned group, source told Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

A member of the government, who asked to remain unnamed, confirmed to Mada Masr that negotiations are taking place between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood, with the hope of including them again in the political process.

Hanna Greiss, deputy head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, also confirmed to Mada Masr that an “academic close to the Muslim Brotherhood” told him that leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are seeking “serious guarantees” that they will be allowed to re-enter Egyptian politics.

Greiss added that the academic, a former advisor to ousted President Mohamed Morsi, said that the Brotherhood has dropped its demand that the president and the dissolved parliament be reinstated. According to Greiss’ source, negotiations are now focused on finding a legal exit for the now-imprisoned leadership of the Brotherhood. Greiss says that these cases should be handled within a framework of transitional justice.

Greiss says he doesn’t know how serious the negotiations are between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. The important thing, he said, it that there is communication, adding, “I don’t think it ever stopped.”

In November, an Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood called on political forces to begin a dialogue of national reconciliation. A strategy document, issued by the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, appeared to downplay earlier calls for Morsi’s reinstatement.

Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Ali Beshir told Mada Masr that the alliance has “assigned a number of its members the task of initiating contacts with political forces.” He said that the outcome of the initiative will be presented to the alliance. Depending on its success or failure, the group will determine its position on the draft constitution’s referendum.

Most non-Islamist political forces have announced that they will take part in the interim government’s “road map” and support the draft constitution draft, prepared by the interim government-appointed, 50-member committee. For them, the document represents the best outcome, in terms of power balance, in the current circumstances, including consolidation of the military’s position in the wake of its confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist groups.

Observers note that behind the obvious questions now claiming the public’s attention — yes or no to the constitution, presidential or parliamentary elections first, proportional lists or individual candidates — there is a whole process of engineering the political future of Egypt. 

Despite the tumult of the past three years, a constant is the political behavior of the different contending forces.

The Muslim Brotherhood has resorted to the noise of protests, at times becoming violent, effectively concealing new lines of communication with the current regime. 

For many, the current coalition of non-Islamist forces and state institutions, widely referred to as “the deep state”, prevents a return to power by Islamists but is marred by its connection to the 30-year rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Hesham Abdel Aziz is a researcher and author of the “January 25 Revolution Encyclopedia”, the first part of which was recently published. He notes that Saif Abdel Fattah, a professor of political science at Cairo University, was among the first to use the term “deep state” in an article published in 2011.

“The notion of ‘the deep state’ became common during the run-offs of the presidential elections,” Abdel Aziz told Mada Masr. “It became widely used in the context of the battle that some civil forces went through to excuse themselves for supporting the Brotherhood candidate [Morsi] against Ahmed Shafiq, who back then, seemed to be the representative of the deep state.”

Of the 12 million people who voted for Morsi, a substantial portion are believed to have done so in order to block the chances of the frontrunner, Shafiq, considered by many to be the face of the deep state. The result was that the protest voters found themselves in an unlikely partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The late scholar Nasr Hamed Abou Zeid wrote some eight years ago, in an article in Akhbar al-Adab magazine, that “a big number of our intellectuals see that the hell of this [Hosni Mubarak] regime is a thousand times better than the heaven of the Islamists.”

Abu Zeid saw the Mubarak regime as “not a civil one, but a military dictatorship, one that is no worse than any theocratic order.” He died before he could experience Islamist rule as a reality, and not just a cause for anxiety among some elites.

Other writers have shown how negative reactions to the Morsi government have enabled some elites to hide how much their interests contradict those of groups that the January 25 revolution pushed to the forefront.

For leftist leader Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, head of the Socialist Popular Alliance, “these groups are facing a serious impasse.” Shokr told Mada Masr that the anti-Brotherhood coalition should stay firm against the Brothers, but what would not be acceptable is for this coalition to turn into an electoral arrangement “that robs the January 25 revolution of its meaning.”

A way out of this impasse, Shokr says, is a comprehensive and uncompromising social and economic development plan that breaks the chain of old interests in the country, where wealthy families have always been privileged.  Shokr is also aware of the weaknesses of the forces of the revolution in this regard, which is why he fears “the return of the Mubarak regime.”

“The return of the Mubarak regime” is how a leader in a party represented by the National Salvation Front, the anti-Islamist coalition, described the current situation. For him, the current period resembles the 2010 parliamentary elections, which saw unprecedented levels of fraud engineered by Mubarak’s men.

In those elections, it was believed that Mubarak initially wanted to redistribute the 20 percent of seats won by Muslim Brotherhood in the 2005 polls among certain loyal opposition parties. Mubarak’s supporters, in particular, steel magnate Ahmed Ezz, were later seen to have hijacked the electoral process in order to amass a majority of seats for the ruling party.

The party leader, who asked to remain anonymous, said that there is no alternative for the parties of the coalition that supported the military against the Brotherhood but to collaborate ahead of the upcoming elections. According to him, these parties are divided into long-established groups that predate the 2011 revolution and new forces seeking real change. But this potential collaboration, he said, may “face real resistance from the young leaderships in the parties that seek change.”

The interests of some forces inside the coalition are, arguably, intersecting with those who predate the January 25 revolution. Meanwhile, members of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party are keen to return to the political scene. Some coalition members believe that such a return is necessary to counter the electoral strength of the Brotherhood.

The source continued to say that the military won’t necessarily support one or the other bloc, but is rather interested in “guaranteeing an acceptable diversity that allows for some Islamist representation through the Salafi Nour Party, the [formerly ruling] National Democratic Party and the forces seeking change, without any of them holding a majority in the political scene.”

The current, de facto military leadership is aware of this unfolding political map and wants to create a suitable environment for it to thrive, according to the source.

Mohamed Shabaan 

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