Compromise Is Impossible in Egypt

Everyone with a voice in politics and the media is calling for General Sisi and the Muslim Brothers to avoid violence and to come to some compromise. This means power-sharing. It is of course a natural human reaction to scenes of great brutality with over 600 dead, by official counting. Some go on to support the Muslim Brothers on the grounds that they won an election, and General Sisi is therefore betraying democracy. Others point to the shambles that Mohmed Morsi made of the office of president, himself betraying democracy by ramming through an Islamist constitution to suit himself. Both points of view apply European standards and judgments that are inapplicable.

There is no democracy in Egypt, and never has been, and never will be until there are institutions to put it in place and people to ensure their proper working. No such institutions exist, and potential democrats are found, if at all, in a few think-tanks or Western universities. Identical in their pursuit of power, the army and the Muslim Brothers differ only in why they want power and what they will do with it. Elections, constitutions, law courts, are instruments of control disconnected from popular consent.

General Sisi and the Muslim Brothers are equally able to muster enough numbers for the test of strength that will give victory to one or the other. That’s how these politics were done when the military put down the Islamists in Algeria. That’s how it’s being done now in Syria and shows signs of happening in Iraq and Lebanon. Power-sharing is inconceivable, mere wishful thinking, in the circumstances. It is time for fear and pity.

David Pryce-Jones — David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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