Today in Egypt, on one side stand the Islamists, who can plausibly claim to represent a popular majority and who possess an articulated project to
Islamicize the state, but whose style and substance runs roughshod over the rights and aspirations of many Egyptians, including Christians, women and those
of a secular bent. The Islamists have the only organized popular movements with cohesive leadership and cadres.
On the other side stand the forces of the old order, whose byword is stability. It boasts undeniable resources: the army, the police, most of the state
bureaucracy including the judiciary, the financiers of the deposed regime, and a powerful elite that benefited from President Hosni Mubarak's rule and is
loathe to erode their privileges. This coalition pays lip service to freedom for minorities and secularists, but has little interest authentic liberalism
The ultimate arbiter for all factions remains the military.
Both lay claims to represent the majority, although the Islamists have the edge in the results of the rounds of elections since the Tahrir uprising.
Neither of these poles speaks for genuine liberals, revolutionaries, or the idealistic youth movements who provided the heart, if not all the manpower,
of the January 25, 2011 uprising.
The long-term fight is between adherents of majoritarian revolution and revolutionary pluralism, a distinction made by the scholar Ellis Goldberg.)
Right now we're caught up in a momentary conflict between the military complex and its reactionary supporters on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood and
some religious extremists on the other, leaving out a major and perhaps decisive swath of the population that supports neither.
In this unenviable contest, the likely outcome is an illiberal, authoritarian government that will lay no claim to consensus, and which will be viewed as
anathema, even treacherous, by nearly half the population. If the deep state prevails, it will never have the loyalty of the population. If the Islamists
prevail, they will never control the security apparatus and the institutions of state.
The original Tamarod movement is not party to this conflict, but is still on stage, at times driving events. They are the constituency for pluralism, due
process, political consensus-making, and accountable, transparent, civilian authority.
The deposed Muslim Brothers have been making an opportunistic appeal to the most superficial elements of the democratic process: elections and elections
alone. Their arguments eerily echo those of Mubarak's regime before it toppled. "There are a million people in Tahrir Square against Mubarak, but there are
79 million at home who support the regime," a deluded police officer told me just before Mubarak resigned. President Mohamed Morsi lost his mandate to rule because of the unforced errors he committed in
office, which alienated almost every constituency in the country.