The opposition to Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood was, until last week, fragmented.
The ‘revolutionaries’. Savvy, networked activists, graffiti artists, hardened leftists, football hooligans, democratic idealists, frustrated people with nothing to lose. The unifying element is a rejection of both the old regime and political Islam, and a willingness to go into the streets, protest, clash, and risk one’s life in the cause of radically transforming society. They are revolutionaries all too painfully aware that what has happened in Egypt since January 2011 is not a revolution (it is those who do not want to see a revolution, who insist that it has already happened). This is the street force that set Mubarak wobbling, spearheaded resistance to SCAF in running battles in places like Mohammed Mahmoud St., and is now taking on Mursi and his supporters in the streets. They are at once the most influential and most powerless element: influential in their ability and determination to instigate crises and set the agenda; but losers in the post-Mubarak struggle for legitimate power in the new political system. They are a vanguard, with quality and energy, but not yet numbers and organization, on their side - hence a leading role in events, along with complete failure at the ballot box.
The ‘remnants’. In this category fall, firstly, the decapitated leftovers of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. These remnants visible in political life, however (capturing perhaps 7% of the vote in parliamentary elections) are complemented by business interests, long-established systems of patronage, and a large slice of traditional officialdom, particularly the police. ‘Remnants’ networks were popularly believed to be engineering crises such as fuel shortages and violent incidents with the aim of destabilizing the country and returning to power. At the grassroots level, there are very many ordinary people who have started to feel that things were better under Mubarak. This started out as mere grumbling, but culminated in the surprise entry of Ahmad Shafiq, a ‘remnant’ if there ever was one, into the presidential runoff. This result can be seen as, firstly, discontent with the economic consequences of the ‘revolution’, secondly, fear of the Brotherhood, and thirdly, the continuing efficacy of NDP networks.
The ‘liberals’. The people we like to call ‘liberals’ in the Middle East are often not very liberal at all. Indeed, to impose liberal ideas in Egypt would require a very illiberal dictatorship. ‘Liberal’ in this context is better understood as secular and capitalist. In this category you will find Western-educated intellectuals, re-branded old-regime billionaires, Christians fearful of Islamist domination, as well as professionals and businesspeople preoccupied with the dire state of the economy. Some parties in this category are distinctly ‘Western oriented’; others, like the Wafd, have more of a nationalist aftertaste. They have considerable means at their disposal and a strong media presence. Nonetheless, ‘liberal’ parties did not receive more than around 20% of the vote in parliamentary elections.
Mursi’s actions are molding these disparate forces into an increasingly coherent secular opposition. The frontline street activists, the old-regime patronage networks, and the ‘liberal’ money and media are making common cause against the threat of MB domination.