It is a bitter challenge for Egypt’s leaders to talk politics when they disagree about so much, and while people are killing each other in the streets.
The context is the promise made by the military to usher in peacefully new presidential and parliamentary elections.
So they said when they pushed out Mohamed Mursi, paving the way on Monday for the head of the constitutional court, Adli Mansour, to be interim head of state.
Predictably, Egypt’s second-most-powerful institution next to the army, the Muslim Brotherhood rejected Mansour’s nomination as illegitimate. Mursi left while claiming he was ready to talk with all parties. With him gone, the Brotherhood has ruled out any political negotiation, leapfrogging from impasse to impasse.
Senior Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Baltagy said: ‘‘There can be no sitting for dialogue or negotiation or talk about a road map unless this coup stops and the reversal of all its effects and the release of the kidnapped president and his return to his position of authority. Then we can discuss how to exit this crisis.’‘
That came just before an announcement by official media on Saturday that Mohamed el Baradei would be interim prime minister. Wrangling among the different political groups had involved the Salafist Al Nour party, which supported the coup in all but name, but Al Nour balked at el Baradei, the figure favoured by the liberal opposition.
The interim head of state’s spokesman said: “The President met with various important personalities. Dr Baradei was one of them.”
On Sunday, the same office said none of the names under scrutiny had made it through the process, and that talks over a caretaker prime minister were continuing. Acting President Adli Mansour reached out to all political forces, this being understood to mean also the Muslim Brotherhood.
That call was not heeded; the Islamist fulcrum in the discussions, the Salafists, withdrew, thrusting Egypt deeper into a political vacuum. The army had acted in the first place to try to prevent such a vacuum. With the rising violence in the Arab world’s most populous country, the economy continues to disintegrate.