Several experts and commentators have attributed much of Egypt's economic and political turmoil to the ineptitude and intolerance of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet Egypt's main opposition party, the National Salvation Front (NSF), a coalition of liberals, leftists, secularists, moderate Muslims, business interests and minorities, has yet to visibly establish itself as a viable alternative and has been accused of being fragmented and "out of touch" with voters. Time is of the essence, however, because as much as the Muslim Brothers have illustrated their inability to govern, they have also proven quite adept at the art of political mobilization.
By every measure available President Mohamed Morsi's economic program has been an abject failure. Foreign currency reserves are currently at $13.5 billion, enough to cover only three months of imports in a country that relies on foreign sources for 70% of its food. Egypt is also suffering from skyrocketing inflation, reduced tourism revenue, capital flight, lack of foreign direct investment and high levels of unemployment.
The IMF has been prepared to extend Egypt a $4.8 billion loan if Cairo is willing to implement fiscal reforms, like eradicating fuel and food subsidies and raising consumption taxes. Critics contend such measures would devastate the two-fifths of Egypt's 84 million people who live near the poverty line, while financial experts believe it represents Egypt's best chance for recovery.
The Brothers realize enacting the IMF's austerity measures would be political suicide in light of pending parliamentary elections. The problem is nobody knows when these contests are to occur because Morsi's call for April elections was overturned by court decree.
Even more distressing than the uncertainty surrounding the timing of the elections is how President Morsi's rule by fiat -- including granting himself immunity from judicial supervision -- has gradually weakened the role of parliament. During a phone interview on Wednesday Professor M. Steven Fish, a political scientist from the University of California at Berkeley, said this type of concentrated power is always "poison for democracy."(...)