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Conflict

Egypt on the brink of collapse?

Since the ousting of President Morsi, Egypt has been in a state of chaos. The Muslim Brotherhood rejects the newly appointed head of the interim government and plans for new elections.

When Mohammed Morsi sought election, he promised to be a president who would represent all Egyptians. But he was unable to unite the various political forces in the country, according to Amr Hashim Rabea, an Egyptian political scientist at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS) in Cairo. In view of the country's disastrous economic situation, he said, it was necessary to unite all forces to push ahead with reconstruction.

Interim president Adly Mansour will govern Egypt only until the next election. Both he and the next freely elected president face a major challenge: They need to unify a divided nation.

Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood?

Supporters of the "Tamarud" (Rebellion) movement claim to have collected more than 20 million signatures against Morsi, arguing they no longer wanted to be governed by the Muslim Brotherhood. But can there be an Egypt without them?

Egyptian tank
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Egyptian military is showing a strong presence since President Morsi's ousting

The Muslim Brotherhood is firmly anchored in Egyptian society and its candidate Mohammed Morsi won the election in 2012 - albeit a low turnout - with 13.2 million votes.

"At the moment, it is not going to be easy to integrate the Muslim Brotherhood in the political process," said Rabea.

The positions appear deeply entrenched, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military is escalating daily. In recent days, dozens of people have been killed in street battles.

"There is enormous anger and huge frustration within the Muslim Brotherhood, and that suppresses any thoughts it might have about its own mistakes," said Volker Perthes, a Middle East expert and director of Germany's Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). But this will surely end, he added, if the military is able to ease the tension.

Although the military promised restraint in reshaping the country's political institutions when it took control, it simultaneously closed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and continues to hunt for leading Islamic leaders.

Warnings of a civil war

Currently, Egypt has no neutral mediator. And all parties, including that of the Salafists, have withdrawn from talks to form an interim government. "Political Islam has been dealt a serious blow," said Perthes. "And this has certainly weakened the Muslim Brotherhood."

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rallying
AFP PHOTO/MAHMOUD KHALED (Photo credit should read MAHMOUD KHALED/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence has risen in recent days

But the Brotherhood doesn't intend to accept that perception. It has called for an uprising, warns of a civil war and is presenting itself as unforgiving. Videos are circulating in the Internet showing Muslim Brotherhood supporters speaking of nationwide attacks if Morsi is not reinstated.

Perthes assumes the violence will continue to escalate. "But it doesn't have to stem from the Muslim Brotherhood; it could come from other forces close to the Brotherhood, such as the Gamaa Islamiya, which has a terrorist past," he said. In recent years, however, the group has restrained from attacks, viewing the election of an Islamist president as an alternative.

National security at risk

Still, Egyptians remain concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood could become radical and hinder the country's reconstruction. "In the future, there will be parts of the Muslim Brotherhood that will turn to violence," said Perthes. "But there will also be parts that say 'we need to establish a modern party that is clearly committed to democracy.'"

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