Sunday, July 7, 2013

First Reflections on the Egyptian Coup

by Esam al-Amin for CounterPunch
The Generals have done it again!
Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, was deposed one year after being democratically elected by the Egyptian people.  For those opposed to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the move by the military is seen as supporting a popular uprising and a belated effort to revive or restore the Egyptian revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak more than two years ago.  But for Morsi’s supporters or those who simply had any respect for democratic governance and the rule of law, the action by the army is nothing short of a brazen though soft military coup d’état.
Which one is it?  Here are the facts.
The military in Egypt has always enjoyed a privileged and autonomous status and is tacitly considered the power behind the throne.  For decades, political power was concentrated in the hands of an elite yet mostly corrupt political and business class that monopolized power and looted the country’s resources.  But the revolution that toppled Mubarak was in essence a rejection not just against the dictator, but also his entire corrupt regime.  One of the major demands of the revolution was to get rid of dictatorship and repression and uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law.
Over the next two years, the political process that followed Mubarak’s overthrow allowed for the will of the Egyptian people to be expressed numerous times through free and fair elections and referenda.  The people in Egypt went to the polls at least six times: to vote for a referendum to chart the political way forward (March 2011), to vote for the lower and upper house of parliament (November 2011-January 2012), to elect a civilian president over two rounds (May-June 2012), and to ratify the new constitution (December 2012).  Each time the electorate voted for the choice of the Islamist parties to the frustration of the secular and liberal opposition.
To the discontent of the Islamists, all their gains at the polls were reversed by either the Mubarak-appointed Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) or the military.  The lower house of parliament, of which the Islamists won seventy three percent of the seats, was dissolved by the SCC a year ago, while the military has just suspended the new constitution, while ousting the democratically-elected president.
Undoubtedly, the MB committed colossal mistakes.  For example, they reneged on several promises to their secular and liberal coalition partners, including to not contest the majority of parliamentary seats, field a presidential candidate, or be more exclude others in the composition of the Constitution Constituent Assembly.  Perhaps, their gravest mistake was to ally themselves closely with the Salafist groups during the process of writing the constitution, thus alienating many of the secularists, liberals, as well as Christians even though the MB did not care much about the constitutional ideological battle.  Their motivation was not to be outflanked by the Salafis on the Islamic identity of the state.  To accomplish this objective, they lost most of the others.
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