With Egypt's new president, Muhammed Morsi, taking the oath of the high office last Saturday, the political party of the once-illegal Muslim Brotherhood officially reigns supreme. But the Supreme Council of the Armed Forced (SCAF), an inseparable lever of Egyptian state autocracy, is still very much in charge.
To discuss Egypt's protracted power struggle, the Cairo Review of Global Affairs and the New America Foundation's Middle East Task Force convened a round table in Washington, D.C. last week. Leading analysts Samer Shehata and Michael Wahid Hanna reflected on their recent visits to Egypt during the presidential balloting and assessed the so-called revolution's progress, or lack thereof.
"It's interesting that [President Morsi] went to see [SCAF Chairman] Tantawi instead of Tantawi going to see him," noted Georgetown Professor Samer Shehata in describing just how little the underlying Egyptian power dynamics have changed.
If one were to deconstruct Cairo's politics since January 2011, the three strongest forces vying for power are the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the protest movement in Tahrir Square and beyond. Despite temporary alliances, no one political actor can control all of the three.
Let's start with the SCAF. I asked Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, about the military's outlook: whether its heavy-handed marshaling of Egypt's transition exemplifies a stroke of evil genius or bungling impulsiveness.