It is becoming clear that a military coup should not have been the last resort, as events unfold and taint Egypt’s hopes for democracy
I would like to start with a few thoughts on Patrick Galey’s article on the situation in Egypt. It seems from the outset that the author was cautious of yet another post-military coup environment. Galey’s remarks regarding what democracy is supposed to mean are not to be ignored. The Morsi government was, incontestably, a democratic outcome, and the pro-Morsi demonstrations were and still are too significant to be ignored. Pro-Morsi rallies of over 2,000 people have even taken place in Turkey on the night of July 5. Although, Galey’s article, as an Egyptian friend assessed, “brushes over the Brotherhood’s own deceitful record”, there are questions which remain unanswered, among which, a few that come to mind are: Will the alternative(s) to the Morsi regime do better amid the systemic obstacles, while the bitterness of the secular-religious divides will remain – if not increase – in the post-military coup environment? We must take the time to reflect on the consequences of coup, as there are concrete political and economic dark sides which will follow the celebrations and protests. Is Egypt ready to host another round of costly elections? And with Ramadan approaching, should we expect another bread crisis in Egypt?
So is democracy agonising or resuscitating in the land of the Pharaohs? Supporters of the Tamarod Movement list different reproaches to Morsi among the following: he involved mostly members of the Brotherhood thus minorities felt excluded; he did not keep his promises, which is again not a surprise in the midst of the present conditions pertaining to the context; and finally, his government was corrupt. It seems that what is at stake is not necessarily apprehension of the Islamists. In the same line of thought, Fisk explains: “The argument was not mosque vs. state so much as Islamism vs. reality.”
Those who supported the army-led transition claim that they have learnt from their past mistakes and that they have once and for all rejected the ‘me or chaos’ type of reasoning, therefore it seems that they would be ready to take the uneasy road of high uncertainties, even if it leads to perpetual periods of transitions-to-be in hopes of eventually establishing a true democracy and radical change.
Breaking from the past in Egypt and signifying a real rupture is also about breaking with a past of military coups. The question really becomes, was the military coup the last resort? In other words, the succession of military coups is setting a dangerous historical precedent. Recent events have shown that the military is above all the other institutions. The ‘revolutionaries’ seem at this stage to agree to let the army arbitrate supremely. But what if the president and his government were supported by the army as was the case with the Mubarak regime? For Shadi Hamid, the director of research at the Brooklyn Doha Center, there were no legal or constitutional ways of chasing Morsi from power as he did not agree to step down. As noted by Christophe Ayad, adjunct director of the international service of Le Monde in Egypt, the only institution which is still standing, united and operational seems to be the army. As the Brotherhood was unable to construct a strong government apparatus, the judiciary is discredited, and the police are completely absent.
The army announced that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court is to be sworn as an interim president on 5 July. We might be tempted to ask what makes this choice democratic. Or rather, should we ask what makes this choice binding other than the fact that it is the army’s ‘decree’? Sixty-seven-year-old alumnus of the prestigious French Ecole Nationale d’Administration, Adli Mansour, served as a judge under Mubarak and was nominated by Morsi himself to the top judicial post of the country. As Morsi has been literally ousted and the constitution is suspended now, how is this choice democratic? In Marwan Bishara’s words on the army: “By definition and by its own organisational structure, a military is anything but democratic.”
Those who celebrated the fall of the Morsi government did not seem to give a thought to some of the chaotic consequences – both immediate and long term – of such an event. On Friday 5 July, the anger and retaliation of tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members culminated in massive mobilisations in Cairo and other places in Egypt to condemn what was perceived to be a multi-level injustice: a stolen revolution, a backlash – if not a democratic regression – notwithstanding the mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members and officials, including former President Morsi, Mohamed Badie and the deputy head of the Brotherhood in Egypt, Khairat el-Shater. The death toll from ongoing violence has reached 30 people on the morning of Saturday 6 July (including police officers and soldiers) and around 246 injuries in accordance with health ministry sources. While the security forces were absent in the beginning of the 5 July demonstrations, they ended up by intervening after the escalation of the clash. Ironically, Colonel Ahmed Ali declared concern regarding the army’s intervention, stating “We are not taking sides. Our mission is to secure the lives of protesters.”
Now let us turn briefly to the mitigated reactions to the current upheaval in Egypt on the international scene. The African Union (AU) has been the first to take a decisive action following Morsi’s overthrow by suspending Egypt’s membership to the organisation, while other nations “have expressed their concern and hope for a rapid return to democracy.” Parting from Kerry’s or Obama’s stand, US Republican Senator McCain has called for suspension of the aid to the Egyptian army and not to repeat the past mistakes of supporting the removal of freely-elected governments, most probably referencing Iran and Afghanistan.
The Freedom and Justice Party released a statement on 5 July claiming that demonstrations across Egypt will continue until Morsi is back in office. The statement also urged the Brotherhood’s members to hold peaceful protests.
Events might escalate and uncertainty is mounting in the midst of an institutional anarchy and a political vacuum. Even if the anger is contained, the bitterness won’t vanish until trust is rebuilt, democracy restored, and unity re-established, thus the necessity of a legitimate institutional apparatus able to reconcile the emblematic divisions of a society on the verge of civil war. The latest and most worrisome development as I write are threats of violence by Ansar Al Sharia. This is a sad reminder that violence perpetrates violence.
Image from: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/07/201374131418638208.html
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