Media Conference Call: The Future of Egypt

Media Conference Call: The Future of Egypt

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Elections and Voting


BERNARD GWERTZMAN: Greetings. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations conference call on Egypt.

Originally, this call was meant to be a discussion of the presidential elections, which will take place over this weekend. But in the last 24 hours we've had some very dramatic developments. The military council has invoked a state of martial law in Egypt, in preparation for the announcement which came this morning from Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court. One ruling was that the lower house of the parliament, which was elected at the end of the year and has a substantial Muslim Brotherhood majority, is no longer valid, and there'll have to be a new election. And secondly, the court said that Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, Mr. Shafiq, is still eligible to run for the election against Mr. Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.

So all this has raised lots of questions, and for this, I'm -- we're lucky to have two experts, Steven Cook, who's the council's expert on Egypt and the author of a recent book on Egypt, and Isobel Coleman, who is also an expert on Egypt.

So, Steve, why don't you it start off. What struck you about these issues?

STEVEN COOK: What -- well, I -- these are two issues that have been rolling around for quite some time, but I think there was -- at least in the minds of most people, there was -- clearly they were going to allow Shafiq to run. The question really was what was going to happen with the parliament? And -- because it was widely regarded to have legitimacy and that would the Supreme Constitutional Court really take the action that it took this morning? There are a whole host of questions -- which constitution the Supreme Constitutional Court is actually referring to when it says that the way in which one-third of these parliamentarians was elected was unconstitutional?

What I think it does is it suggests that the players have largely been outmaneuvered by the military, and the -- and the system that is one that goes back to the founding of the regime back in the 1950s. And we may very well be seeing -- of course, there are going to be many people who are angry, and I would expect that people are going to turn out to the streets, but that we're seeing the end, as I wrote in Foreign Policy today, that the revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square is clearly slipping away, and that you have determined counter-revolutionary groups in Egypt that have outmaneuvered a variety of new groups in the country that thought that they had -- in those inspiring 18 days in late January/early February 2011 -- had finally done away with the regime that the Free Officers ushered in the 1950s. And clearly, this morning, they seem to be proven quite wrong.

GWERTZMAN: Isobel Coleman, who is a senior fellow and director of the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy Initiative and director of the Women in Foreign Policy Program, but is also an expert on Egypt -- Isobel, what do you think about all this?

ISOBEL COLEMAN: Well, I think -- you know, I wrote recently that we're at the end of the beginning in the revolution. I think this is clearly going to go on for a long time. You've -- as Steven just said, you're seeing a big push by counterrevolutionary forces. Following Twitter and lots of blogs, looking at what people are saying in Egypt, I think people are going to react very negatively to this. There is likely to be some pretty big demonstrations and counterdemonstrations.

And you saw just yesterday that the government has reinstated, in effect, the state-of-emergency law. This was something that was in place for 30 years under Mubarak. It expired May 31st, and by government decree, they've now replicated it, in effect, yesterday with a new law that, you know, citizens can -- and human rights groups can basically be arrested and tried in military courts. And I'm sure this is all in preparation for what they're anticipating. What they're girding for is some pretty big demonstrations coming up as people recognize that these counterrevolutionary forces are just, you know, not moving over.

And so then the big question becomes what will the major players do, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. We've seen some, you know, discussion going on between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military over how they're going to play together in whatever is this new emerging system.

So they're clearly still talking to the -- to each other. There are reports in the newspaper that Khairat al-Shater has been meeting with Sami Anan, the number two at SCAF. And they have been talking about what -- how they're going to play things and what role each of them is going to have in this new, emerging system.

GWERTZMAN: I want to ask one more question, then we'll turn it over to our audience out there. And just answer briefly, who is going to win the election, Mr. Morsi or Mr. Shafiq? Steve first.

COOK: (Chuckles.) It's a very good question. I think this defies prediction, and I think today's rulings from the Supreme Constitutional Court throws things into further uncertainty. You know, my feeling was that it was essentially a toss-up. There was some conventional wisdom coming out of the first round that Morsi would have the advantage, but I didn't think that that's the case at all. And all things being equal, Morsi certainly has the formidable network of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he's also going to need Aboul Fotouh voters, Salafists and Sabahi voters. And not all of those people are going to turn out in favor of Morsi.

Now, perhaps the ruling from the Supreme Constitutional Council might change that, but we know that Aboul Fotouh and many of his supporters are at war with the Brotherhood. We know that the Salafists dislike the Muslim Brotherhood. And you can see how Sabahi voters would support Shafiq. So -- and it's also clear, based on the results of the first round of the election, that the military and the general intelligence service, as well as the falul -- the remnants of the old regime, worked very hard from the time that the People's Assembly results came into truly revive the old NDP networks. And I think that that works to Shafiq's advantage.

But of course, we're in this highly dynamic political environment and you are going to see significant opposition and activity opposed to this -- these rulings this morning, and I think that it really does suggest that it's -- at this point it's anybody's presidency. But of course, Shafiq's speech -- his presser this morning was essentially a victory speech. I'm not willing to hand it to him just yet, but I do have a side bet with a friend. We've got a dollar on it, and I've got Shafiq and this other person has Morsi. So that's where I stand.

GWERTZMAN: That's a long way of saying Shafiq. All right.


COLEMAN: Well, I -- you know, I've just been watching this press conference that Shafiq is giving, and it does sound like an acceptance speech. And you've also had senior members of the Brotherhood in the last 24 hours -- 48 hours coming out saying that they don't -- they don't expect Morsi to win.


COLEMAN: And they are therefore talking with Shafiq and the military about what, you know, senior role they could have in the new parliament; you know, that they might cut some deal, in effect.

You know, if I had -- if I was a betting person, I guess I would bet on Shafiq at this point.

GWERTZMAN: OK. Well, let's turn it over to our call-in people. (Pause.) Hello?

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time we will open the floor for questions. (Gives queuing instructions.)

GWERTZMAN: Do we have anybody yet?

OPERATOR: We are holding for questions.

GWERTZMAN: OK. Then I'll continue.

Can either of you explain why it was that the parliament was found to be illegally elected?

COOK: Well, it has to do with, I think, two issues. At least, what I've been able to gather so far this morning is that there was a certain number of seats that were set aside for independents and that the way in which those independents were supposed to be elected was through a first-past-the-post system rather than proportional representation.

And what the court's ruling, it seems, is that those people who actually contested and won the seats reserved for independents were actually affiliated with parties. And so this essentially violated two aspects of what they -- the constitution. But of course, the question remains, what constitution are we actually talking about?

That is, so far, best that I can tell. Supreme constitutional court rulings, recently, have been -- I don't want to use the word bizarre -- but quite difficult to -- they've gone through a series of legal gymnastics to make the cases that they've made. But it does seem to be that it has to do with this question of independents and first-past-the-post voting system.

GWERTZMAN: All right, any questions?

COLEMAN: I mean, the only thing I would add to that is what I think they're trying to accomplish is to reduce the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliament. A lot of those independent seats were actually held by people who ran as independents but are affiliated with parties, you know, the two big parties being the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Noor. And so I think what they're trying to do is say, we're going to reduce the overall Islamist presence in parliament from the 70-plus percent that it is now to a lower level.

GWERTZMAN: All right. Any call-ins?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our first question comes from Laura Rozen from Al-Monitor.

QUESTIONER: Hi, thanks for doing this. I'm curious what you would advise the United States to be saying, I guess probably more quite -- you know, behind closed doors or privately. Or, you know, are they just spectators to an internal matter?

COOK: Well, my sense is that we are spectators to an internal matter. This is one of those events that the United States has very, very little influence. This is an internal, political struggle that has been going on for quite some time, and I think that if the president or the secretary of state or someone else picked up the phone and called and, in a quiet way, discussed what was happening, to be sure, Field Marshal Tantawi would listen, but I don't think it would make much of a difference.

I think that to the extent that this system that has been set up continues to function and is seeking to -- and its defenders are seeking to secure their interests in the future of Egypt, whatever it is that the United States says will likely fall on deaf ears.


COLEMAN: I mean, the only thing I would add to that is -- I mean, I completely agree that we're spectators here. Our influence is limited. But policymakers should keep in mind that your average Egyptian firmly believes that Shafiq is the American candidate -- not only the military's candidate but someone who the U.S. wants to see in power -- and should just keep that front of mind when dealing with Egypt because even if we are on the sidelines or are not doing anything, perception has some weight of its own.

And that's how people are reading this whole thing, and they're going to be angry. And they're going to be angry that these -- that, you know, the United States, they're going to perceive, is behind this counter-revolution.

QUESTIONER: Right. And in terms of just, like, even if Victoria Nuland gets asked at the State Department briefing about just the legitimacy of the decision today, do you think the U.S. should weigh in on whether it's seen as legitimate or that is -- we're going to be saying that this is something for Egypt to decide?

COOK: You know, I certainly understand what Isobel is saying is that people are going to think that, you know, the United States is behind, you know, the counter-revolution. But clearly, no matter what the United States says, given our history and the connection to Egypt, no matter what we say or what we don't say, we're likely to be blamed for it. I don't think we should be weighing in on a constitutional debate that very few actually understand. So I think that --

COLEMAN: Well, we don't understand it, either. It's very murky, still, with what's exactly going on.

COOK: Well, exactly. So I think Egyptians are going to be left to draw their own conclusions, and I think that this is essentially an internal struggle. We would likely hurt ourselves, whether we said one thing or the other.

So I think that the State Department is likely going to fall back on one of these anodyne statements about, you know, the United States wanting to see Egyptians, you know, achieve their long -- you know, their long desire to live in a more democratic society and probably leave it at that. It is deeply frustrating that the United States is in that position, but again, this is a struggle that is clearly an internal struggle and one that has been going on for quite some time, not just since the uprising last year.

GWERTZMAN: Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Ahmed Fathi (sp) from Al-Fahd (ph) newspaper.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Very quickly, there was a point that the distinguished panel have missed, that there is a very strong possibility that the candidacy of Ahmed Morsi will be voided based on the ruling of the constitutional court that the parliament was not constitutional, and accordingly, the department was dismantled. And Morsi came with an endorsement of his party, which was represented in the parliament. My question to the panel: What are the chances of this to happen? We are waiting for the feedback from Cairo, but I would rather have a second view. Thank you.


COOK: Go ahead, Isobel.

COLEMAN: Well, you know, I don't have any inside information on that, but they did -- it appears that they've made their rulings and that Morsi is not going to be disqualified. But who knows? I mean, there are other machinations going on here, but it appears that they have -- there were two big things they were looking at: both the legitimacy of the presidential candidates and of the parliament. And it appears that they've come out with their rulings and, you know, whether or not they're going to issue additional ones, I don't know.

GWERTZMAN: Next question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. (Gives queuing instructions.) Holding for questions. Our next question comes from Naomi Choy Smith from CBS News.

QUESTIONER: Hi, there. Thanks for doing this. Can you speak a little bit about the next steps? Now that the parliament has been dissolved, what happens now, legally speaking?

COOK: Well, the supreme council of the armed forces has said that it now has legislative responsibility in Egypt, and the question is, you know, if and when they're re-run a parliament. But for now, after this -- (inaudible) -- in session this morning, they issued a statement saying, we now have legislative prerogatives. So we're back to the situation we were in before the parliamentary elections.

COLEMAN: Yeah, but it does remain murky. I mean, you have the speaker of the parliament, Katatni, saying he's not sure he's going to dissolve parliament. You could have some type of gridlock here. You know, who actually has the authority to dissolve the Parliament is currently being debated right now in Egypt. And whether or not --

COOK: Well, the constitutional declaration from March 2011 actually does give the SCAF the ability to dissolve the parliament. The question now is whether they will do that.

COLEMAN: Well, whether they'll do it, and whether it's the whole parliament or whether it's the one-third of the seats. I mean, I've been reading that it's the whole parliament; others are reporting that it's a third of the parliament. There's just -- it's not totally clear. I think it's a moving target, as we speak.

GWERTZMAN: It looks as if the initial decision was a third, but then in background discussions --

COOK: That's exactly right.


GWERTZMAN: -- to reporters, the head of the court said it means the whole parliament is -- has to be re-elected.

COOK: Has to go.

GWERTZMAN: Our next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Joshua Newell, from Need to Know News.

QUESTIONER: Yes, I was wondering if this gives the ability of SCAF, now that they have legislative responsibility, to kind of hijack the writing of the constitution. And I'm just wondering where you see that going, if they're going to do that in the next little bit or are they going to wait and -- wait and see and wait for Parliament to be re-elected.


COLEMAN: Well, they have just announced this new constituent assembly to draft a constitution. But one of the questions is, if parliament is dissolved, whether that group remains in place. My reading is that it does, but there's others who are saying no, it will have to be again dissolved. It's -- again, it's one of these murky questions, but they literally just came up with the composition, this new composition. They had a constituent assembly that was dissolved on the basis that it wasn't representative and, therefore, legitimate.

This new one, again, in a -- in a deal that was cut, is basically 50 percent Islamist, 50 percent non-Islamist. You do have some of the liberal groups unhappy about lack of representation still, but it appears that the Brotherhood has signed off on this. And you have some prominent liberal names on this new committee. But again, this was literally just announced, and how it remains in this very ambiguous political situation now is unclear.

COOK: I'm not at all convinced we're going to get a new constitution. I think, through either all of the uncertainty and instability or just the legal gridlock and inertia and fighting around this question of the constituent assembly, we may very well see a reversion to the 1971 constitution.

That would -- that may not be the worst thing in the world from the perspective of the people who are -- who hold the power. So, you know, then -- changing certain articles and so on so forth, but essentially reverting to 1971 as amended in 1980, 2005 and 2007, with some modifications. I think that that is a very real possibility.

GWERTZMAN: Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Ashi Sun (ph), from Washington Times.

QUESTIONER: Hi. Thank you. I was just wondering, how do you see today's developments affecting the runoff and the results of the runoff, and do you see it weighing in favor of one candidate over the other in any degree?


COLEMAN: Well, I think one effect is that people have already been somewhat disillusioned with the whole process, and that you're going to see low voter turnout for this runoff. There's a sense that the runoff was in fact predestined, that the judiciary was going to make a decision.

I think people are feeling that their exciting democracy is slipping away from them, and I suspect that one result is you're going to have -- you know, you had -- you had lower turnout for the first run of the presidential election than you did for the parliamentary election, and that was only 46 percent. My guess is you're going to have even lower, and perhaps significantly lower, participation this weekend.

QUESTIONER: Thank you.

GWERTZMAN: Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have a question, just dial star-one on your touch-tone phone now. Holding for questions.

GWERTZMAN: OK. What kind of a president would Shafik be?

COOK: Well, I think that Shafik represents the interests of the military and the old regime -- or the so-called old regime and the remnants of that -- of that regime. So I think that, you know, we would see Shafik and the powers around him doing what they can to salvage what they can of Egypt as of January 24th, 2011.

As we -- at his press conference this morning he talked about an Egypt for all people and so on and so forth. This is stuff to be absolutely ignored. He represents in every way the old regime.

COLEMAN: Well, he did sound an awful lot like Mubarak in his press conference this morning. (Chuckles.)

GWERTZMAN: Interesting. Speaking of Mubarak, any thoughts? Is he -- is he going to just die and be forgotten, or are they going to have a big memorial?

COOK: (Laughs.) I'm sure you're absolutely facetious, yes. He could very well end up being the president of Egypt. (Laughter.) He is -- he was drinking juice yesterday, which was a sign of his condition stabilizing. I can see him returning.

No, that is absolutely facetious, CFR; please don't tweet that.

I think that it's -- even though, as I wrote today at Foreign Policy, that Mubarak looms large over Egypt and its current tribulations, he himself is irrelevant to what's happening, that Shafik and the people around him are all creatures of the Mubarak era, all are creatures of the regime that goes back to 1952, that it's a self-reinforcing system, and that Egypt can continue, and in many ways it has continued. The way of doing things in Egypt remains the same ways of doing things that -- under Mubarak.

So when he dies, it'll be interesting to see how it's handled. It certainly will be handled differently under a Morsi presidency than under a Shafik presidency. But what we're talking about is someone who led an authoritarian system, and that system, as I said, looms -- continues to loom large over Egypt's present political struggles.

COLEMAN: I would just add that he is irrelevant on one level, but he's still symbolically important in the country. And the sentencing of Mubarak that many people interpreted as being too light on him is a -- is a way of again galvanizing people to look at what's happening. It's just another element to say, aw, you know, nothing's changed. It's still the same establishment in charge. They're just protecting their own.

But of course, there's also already, as there are usually many times for dictators, that nostalgia building. When I was in Egypt this spring there were people already talking about how things were better under Mubarak, you know? They didn't have the chaos; the economy was better; these tapes of things. So you already begin to --

There's huge swaths of the population of course that wants nothing to do with Mubarak, but you already see people looking back on the Mubarak era -- not missing him, per se, but missing the stability or the growth that they experienced or whatever it may be. And of course, you know, that depends on where you sit. The establishment, of course, is going to miss Mubarak more than others.

GWERTZMAN: Is there another question out there?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. Our next question is from K.T. McFarland, from Fox News.

QUESTIONER: Hi. I apologize if I'm asking a question that's already been answered. I was unable to join this from the very beginning.

But number one, why did the supreme court do this? Two, do they have a dog in this fight or are they neutral? And three, how will this be received by the Egyptian people?

GWERTZMAN: All right. Steve, do you want take a crack at that?

COOK: Yeah. I think we've covered this, but essentially, no, the Supreme Constitutional Court is not -- is not neutral here. It is very much part of the so-called old regime.

I think the response among revolutionaries, the Muslim Brotherhood -- I just got a tweet directed from the Muslim Brotherhood saying that they will be coming out with a statement very shortly -- is obviously not going to be received very well by those who stood to benefit from changes in Egyptian society.

And what was the third part of the question?

QUESTIONER: How will the people react?

COOK: I'm sorry?

QUESTIONER: How will -- how will the people react?

COOK: Yeah, I think that you're going to see significant people pour into the streets and demand change. I think people are coming to the recognition that they've been had, that the -- that this is -- this is the way in which the old regime is finally trying to snuff out the -- as I said earlier, the revolutionary promise of Tahrir Square. And I think you're going to see a significant reaction.

GWERTZMAN: All right. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, star-one to pose a question.

Our next question comes from Thomas Dine, from Middle East Broadcasting.

QUESTIONER: Oh, hi. Thank you.

What will be the ramifications in the region -- Tunisia, Libya, the creaking Kashermite (ph) Kingdom, even Syria?

GWERTZMAN: Isobel, take a crack at that.

COLEMAN: Well, all of these -- I'm going to leave Syria out of it for a moment, because Syria I think is in a very, very different position. But Tunisia and Libya are certainly struggling along with their own process of reform and elections and reconstituting a new state. And I'm sure they're looking closely at what's going on in Egypt, and I'm sure you're going to have both those who have the most to gain from preserving the status quo, watching what's going on and those who are trying to forge a new system and looking at Egypt and trying to learn some lessons from all of this.

GWERTZMAN: Do you have anything to add, Steve?

COOK: No. I think that -- I think that that's right. In general, the effect -- you know, one is tempted to say that because Egypt is so big and it has been so influential in the past that it is going to have a profound effect on the rest of the region. And I think it does influence in some ways, but I think that the countries that are trying to forge new political systems and those that are in crisis right now are so -- are so focused with their own internal developments that Egypt is something that people are looking at, but not necessarily seeking any inspiration from.

If, in fact -- the one thing that may be happening is that counterrevolutionary forces throughout the region are watching what's happening in Egypt and it may be giving them, you know, encouragement. But I don't think that -- I don't think that Egypt is influencing the region in the ways that we have often thought it will. And this is -- this is a series -- these are a group of countries that really are looking inward right now and trying to figure out their path forward.

GWERTZMAN: I have my own question here. How badly has Egypt's economy faltered since the overthrow of Mubarak? Isobel, you were just in Egypt, right?

COLEMAN: I was there two months ago, now, or six weeks ago. I think, Steven, maybe you've been there more recently.

COOK: I'm leaving next week. Better bring my tear gas -- vest.

COLEMAN: (Chuckles.) Yeah. You know, Egypt's -- Egypt has remarkably chunked along. I mean, it's -- the main thing has been decline in tourism, which is an important source of foreign exchange for the country. You've also seen declines in foreign direct investment in a significant way, and a decline in foreign reserves, in hard currency reserves, in a significant way.

And that has created a balance of payments brewing crisis for Egypt, and that crisis is one that really, I think, will not be resolved until there's greater political clarity, because international organizations and investors are reluctant to pick up and reinvest and lend to Egypt without greater clarity on who they're dealing with in the government and what type of government it's going to be.

And so you've really had, in a way, economic gridlock in the country, and with the tumult and all of these ups and downs, tourists have been reluctant. You know, it has not been a crash by any means. It's down less than 10 percent, but that has a big impact on both foreign exchange and employment in the country.

GWERTZMAN: All right. Next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from Trudy Rubin from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

QUESTIONER: Hi, all, and thanks for doing this.

Steve, I'm wondering, before the court decision there was a lot of talk about how the Brotherhood would react to a Shafiq victory. And some people said, well, if they could have a deal with the military where they kept control, or almost control of the parliament, and, you know, they would not come out on the streets -- or protest in a big way. So I'm curious, if both the presidency and the parliament are, quote, "taken away from them," unquote, how do you foresee the reaction?

And then on the part of the others -- the non-Islamists, to a certain extent some of them were pushed towards the old alliance with the Brotherhood by Shafiq's ascendance and some were going to abstain. Do you see this possibly creating a new alliance between the non-Islamists and the Brotherhood and Noor (sp)?

COOK: Well, it's certainly an interesting question.

I think, first, let's take the Brotherhood and military piece of it. And, you know, the Brotherhood and the military obviously have been at odds for quite some time and they've never been able to impose their will on the other. So the military has a lot of -- a lot of coercion, but doesn't have a lot of vision; the Brotherhood has a lot of vision and no coercion; and they essentially check-mate each other.

And what they've -- they've been engaged in political struggles, and this is certainly true for post-Mubarak's fall. They've been engaged in this kind of -- these struggles, but marked by periodic tactical agreements. And I think that's probably what Khairat el-Shater and -- (inaudible) -- are talking about -- is how to move forward and what kind of deals that they can make. This is one of the reasons why liberals and revolutionaries have traditionally been suspect of the Muslim Brotherhood, among many reasons why they've been suspect.

There is some sentiment -- and I'm already seeing some of it in what I'm looking at while we're on the phone -- in which some members of the Brotherhood are looking at this as perhaps to their advantage, because it will demonstrate to those people who were floating between constituencies or who were apt to sit out these elections, that given what this clearly looks like -- a coup, from certain perspectives -- that it will motivate them to actually support the Brotherhood, that it will show that the Brotherhood isn't actually out to dominate; that, in fact, it's the falul, it's the military, it's the old regime that is out to dominate the system, and that there really needs to be pushback. And the hope is that you will, you know, knit together the coalition that ultimately came together during the uprising. That may -- that is a very optimistic assessment of what happened -- what might happen.

There is a lot of mistrust among all of these different groups at this point and I think that the military, and security services and the remnants of the regime have done a very good job sowing divisions among these groups.

COLEMAN: You know, I --

QUESTIONER: Well, just could I -- oh, sorry.

COLEMAN: Yeah, I would just add to that.

I mean, this is a very important point, that just, you know, in the last few days, the Muslim Brotherhood has gone from being, you know, really politically ascendant -- having a controlling interest in the parliament and looking like, you know, they were also going to have the presidency, to now going back to their traditional role of being an underdog. And it's probably a place that they, in some ways, feel more comfortable.

There was a lot of debate and controversy over their decision even to run a presidential candidate for the very reason that people felt uncomfortable getting too far out in front, and that there would be a backlash. And I think you've actually seen a backlash against the Brotherhood, in some respects, from the declining number of votes that they've had as a percent, both from the parliamentary elections to the presidential. And, you know, if Morsi was going to win -- I'm not sure he was, you know, it was not clear that he was going to win -- but, you know, this has put them in a different position.

QUESTIONER: Well, could I just follow up on that? I was there for the first round, and obviously you could feel the backlash in working-class districts like in Bahba (sp) or -- (inaudible). But what I'm wondering is, given that, and given people's weariness, you seem to -- that the Brotherhood and the non-Islamist opposition can afford to really go to the streets and oppose what looks like a soft coup? Or do you think the job that Steve referred to, of "divide and conquer," that the military and the intelligence seems to have done so well, do you think that will lead any effort at a new street revolution to fizzle?

COLEMAN: Well, we were -- we were chatting about this earlier, about, you know, this "specter of Algeria."

You know, I don't think that the Muslim Brotherhood wants to spark, you know, deep violence and war in the country. I think that they're looking to have power -- some form of power, share power. And as Steven mentioned earlier, there is a series of negotiations going on right now, and what the Muslim Brotherhood brings to the table -- their negotiating position is: We can bring people out into the streets, we can have millions and millions of people in the street; and let's not go to that. So, give us this and give us that, so that we don't get to that point.

COOK: Let's take it for a second, Trudy.

And you know, there's really two things that have happened: One, you know, with the parliamentary elections there was a sense that the Brotherhood now could go for broke, that their, you know, historic goal was to capture the Egyptian state and that they were full of tremendous amount of confidence. And even despite the controversy within the Brotherhood about running a presidential candidate, the decision was obviously made, for a variety of political circumstances, but because the Brotherhood could see that Egypt was possibly within its grasp.

But now that they seem to have been outmaneuvered by the military, the courts and associated supporters of the old regime, it seems that the Brotherhood may, given that they've been shaken by this -- and, again, we're waiting for, we're waiting for a statement from them -- that they may, in fact, revert to form, which is their historic -- historic strategy has been: We cannot take on the state directly. We need to preserve the Brotherhood so that, over the long term, we can capture the state, that we can Islamize society from below and bring this regime down from in itself, because people will demand something quite different.

That may be what the calculation is now -- that they have lost this round. Remember, the Brotherhood, as all Islamists -- I mean, if you remember one thing about the Brotherhood, they believe that they have time on their hands. So they may be thinking that it may be time to make a deal in order to preserve themselves to fight longer. That is what they have done historically.

GWERTZMAN: OK, we are running out of time. Anymore -- is there another question out there?

OPERATOR: Well, sir, there are no questions in the queue currently.


Well, look, I want to thank both of you. (Chuckles.) And I think we had a very good discussion of the issues in Egypt, and we'll see that happens over the weekend. (Chuckles.) And Steve and I will be talking on Monday. OK.

COOK: Thanks, everybody.

COLEMAN: Thank you.

GWERTZMAN: Take care. Bye-bye.

OPERATOR: Thank you. This does conclude our teleconference for the day. You may now disconnect.







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