The Muslim Brotherhood now understand that they have lost and are under pressure from a wave of repression and arrests,” said a Western diplomat. “So they are in a second phase of saying they won’t return to any political process unless the repression stops and are are released.”
State media now describe the Muslim Brotherhood in terms akin to al Qaeda. Ahmed Mefreh of the international rights group Alkarama Foundation said more than 2,000 Morsi supporters had been arrested in Cairo alone.
In the space of a few weeks, security forces have arrested the Brotherhood’s leaders and killed many of its supporters in the streets. Meanwhile, a committee appointed without debate has proposed constitutional amendments that would open the way for a political comeback by Mubarak-era officials.
The prospect of financial meltdown has been staved off by billions of dollars in aid from Gulf states hostile to the Brotherhood, and Western censure has been softened, at best.
The first draft of the new constitution seeks to restore the voting system that kept Mubarak in power for 30 years, something that has disappointed smaller parties that have struggled to establish themselves since the end of his one-man rule.
It would also lift a ban on former members of his government seeking office, and remove problematic Islamist-inspired language brought in last year.
The new constitution also bans religious political parties.
The government has begun to revive the political security apparatus that was shelved, but not dismantled, after the 2011 revolt. It has appointed ex-military figures to positions which, like the presidency, were once dominated by them.
It seems unlikely the next president will be a rival to the power of the old establishment. The oath of allegiance sworn by conscripts no longer mentions loyalty to the head of state.
“What you will see is a very diminished role for the presidency – except of course if a military or security figure decides to run for that position,” said Nathan Brown, a leading expert on Egypt at George Washington University.
The Brotherhood will not be part of the 50-member assembly that will discuss the new constitution. But for now, barring a major rethink on all sides, the Brothers look set to sit out the new transition from the sidelines – or jail.