AT THE heart of every revolution is a struggle for the nation's soul. And at present, Egypt's soul is on the verge of being torn to shreds. Egyptians are scheduled to go to the polls on Saturday to vote on a new constitution in what should be a historic, seminal day for a new post-revolutionary nation.
Instead, Egypt is looking at a disaster visible to all but the most incurable optimist.
Consider what is likely to happen. A nation of people, a third of whom are illiterate, will be asked to vote on a constitution running to 236 articles they haven't been given the time to read. If last year's referendum on an interim constitution is any guide, the constitution will pass. But voter turnout will be low, particularly if Egyptian liberals and Mubarak loyalists decide to boycott in large numbers. The result, then, is a poorly drafted constitution that vast swaths of Egyptian society will view as illegitimate.
That leaves President Mohammed Mursi's government in something of a crisis. Protests will continue and probably escalate. His capacity to control the country will be no match for this renewed uprising, leaving him with only a range of Mubarak-style options if he wants to cling to power. Mursi will lean on the army. The army will probably protect him as long as he guarantees its autonomy. There goes the dream of an Egyptian government where civilians call the shots over the military. In the meantime, army protection of the regime will likely mean one thing: lots of people will die.