It is difficult to know which is most dangerous: the serious uptick in street violence; President Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s serial inability to reach out to the rest of the political class inclusively; or the opposition clinging to the hope of some extraneous event (demonstrations, foreign pressure, judicial rulings or military intervention) allowing it to gain power while bypassing arduous compromise and politics. They are tied of course: the president’s cavalier treatment of the constitution-writing process and the judiciary and the opposition’s lethargic approach to politics and rejection of Islamist legitimacy alike have eroded the authority of state institutions. This encourages in turn unrest and contributes to the economic slide. Together, these heighten risks of a complete breakdown of law and order. For two years, political factions repeatedly have failed to reach consensus on basic rules of the game, producing a transition persistently threatening to veer off the road. It is past time for the president and opposition to reach an accommodation to restore and preserve the state’s integrity . . .
Overshadowing this is a broader political context: a persistent, perilous standoff between on one side the president and his Islamist backers for whom elections appear to mean everything, and, on the other, opposition forces for whom they seem to mean nothing; between those in power who deny adversaries respect and those not in power who deny Islamists legitimacy. The constitution-writing process was a sad microcosm: Islamist contempt in forcing through what ought to have been a carefully constructed, consensual document; opposition recklessness in seeking to exploit the moment to topple the Brotherhood; one celebrating a narrow conception of majority rule, the other holding to a counter-productive notion of street politics.
In the absence of a shared view of the foundations of a future political system, Islamists are pressing their vision, while their opponents play spoilers. This has the makings of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more the opposition obstructs and calls for Morsi's ouster, the more it validates the Islamists' conviction it will never recognise their right to govern; the more the Brotherhood charges ahead, the more it confirms the others' belief of its monopolistic designs over power. Even if leaders back away from the brink, this could quickly get out of hand, as their ability to control the rank and file — and, in the case of the opposition, ability to represent the rank and file — dwindles.