By Ian Howarth
The events that have been unfolding in Egypt over the last 24 hours have only added to the evidence that the 3rd July coup was in fact nothing more than a counter-revolutionary move by the Conservative old guard. The removal from power of Hozni Murbarak in 2011 also saw the removal of the army from power in Egypt. The election of Mohamed Morsi last year marked the first time since 1952 that a General had not been the Head of State.
On July 3rd the army took back what it believes is its own and not the birth-right of every Egyptian. The seizure of power led by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi was the first step in re-establishing the armies’ brutal grip on the nation. However, it has encountered far more opposition than it expected and in order to achieve its objectives has had to resort to extreme violence against the Muslim Brotherhood civilian protesters.
While it is true to say that Egypt is a country divided, it is the very fact that it is divided that makes this violent oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood so apaulling. President Morsi was the democratically elected president of Egypt. This is a point that we must not forget. The constitutionally elected President of Egypt was removed from power in a military coup. The early hopes expressed by many that this coup was aimed at restoring a measure of secular balance to the states institutions have evaporated in the light of the use of deadly force against unarmed protesters. The violent suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood is the default position for the Egyptian military, who have spent the past five decades harassing, torturing and imprisoning its members.
The Army is seeking one thing and one thing only, the return of the powers and privileges that it enjoyed under the Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak regimes. It will use any means necessary at securing these privileges and will crush any opposition. General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi the leader of the coup is a virtual Murbarak clone, having completed the General Command and Staff Course at Aldershot in the UK, and the War Course at the US Army War College he is a product of the conflicted relationships that lie between western capitals and their declared desire to see a democratic Egypt.
The shockingly slow response of the US State Department and many other Western Powers in condemning the coup back in July demonstrates this hypocrisy. US interests are far better served by a compliant military dictatorship than a turbulent new democracy with an Islamist President. The United States is the only foreign player that matters, and probably the only force left that could turn the tide back in favour of Democratic government in Egypt. The US military grant to the Egyptian Army is worth $1.3 billion a year. How can the leader of the free world continue to fund a military that murders its own people, will the cold interests of the US in the middle east trump the chance for a democratic future for Egypt. The events of the past two months seem to suggest that the Obama Administration has no interest at all in saving Egyptian democracy, as such the violence will continue and Egyptian society will be subdued and silenced once again.
By Ian Howarth
Yesterday I asked whether what we were witnessing in Egypt was a democratic coup or a return of the old guard. The removal of Egypt’s first democratically elected president in a military coup was clearly an anti-democratic action, but it could have possibly led to a more plural political settlement within an equally democratic structure.
The events of today seem to suggest that this hoped for good outcome from a bad action is drifting further and further away. The activities and statements of the new government in Cairo seem much more to be aimed at the reestablishment of the old order in Egypt. The imposition of press controls, the arrest of hundreds of senior Muslim Brotherhood members and the talk of the need for a democratic process that
Egypt has been ruled by the military through sham democratic processes for most of its modern history. Abdul Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were all military dictators who hung up their uniforms and called themselves President so as to cloth themselves in constitutional legitimacy. Mohamed Morsi for all his failings as a politician was freely and fairly elected the President of Egypt. His presidency reflected the true will of the people. However much he may have lost popular support, tanks should never be used to bring about change in a democratic system. If the military government in Egypt seeks to manage an election so that only candidates to its own liking are allowed to contest the presidency then Egypt will no longer be a democracy. It would be no different in its basic operation to the process of vetting presidential candidates in the Iranian electoral process by the Assembly of Experts headed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.reflects the ‘true will of the people’, all seem to point to the creation of a military controlled sham democracy. Adly Mansour who was until this morning the President of the Supreme Court was sworn in today as the interim president. His rise to power has been rapid, having only been appointed to the Supreme Court in May. This attempt at constitutionality seems to be little more than an attempt at legitimising a military coup. I would imagine that the vast majority of the real decisions in Egypt tonight continue to be made in the Defence Ministry and not the Presidential Palace.
While ‘managed democracy’ as it is sometimes called by the cronies that benefit from this corrupt system may offer a more stable Egypt; this will be stability bought at the cost of freedom through an oppressive, security state. It was this oppressive system that was overthrown in January 2011. I sincerely hope that we are not seeing its rebirth today.
By Ian Howarth
Today’s military coup d’état in Egypt is not an unexpected development. Throughout history revolutions have been followed by counter revolutions, and then even counter, counter revolutions. The removal of Egypt’s first democratically elected president by a military coup is something to mourn. It does not set the stage for a stable political future, especially if whoever ends up sat in the Presidential Palace has constantly to maintain the army on side to ensure their continued governance.
However, there may be room for hope in today’s events. Mohamed Morsi had abused his position, and acted on several occasions in an authoritarian manner. He was not a model of democratic virtue and failed to realise that if you wish to make change in a democracy you need to take the people with you. His continuing distortion of the political system to the advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood quickly alienated vast sections of the Egyptian electorate from across society. This is why the crowds gathered on the streets of Cairo over the past four days are by some estimates even greater than those that drove Hosni Mubarak from power just over two years ago.
If the military hold true to their word that there actions were in support of the will of the people and follow through on free, fair and open elections within the next 12 months then we could see the emergence of a liberal and legitimate government. Morsi won last year’s presidential election with 51.7% of the vote versus 48.3% for the independent liberal candidate Ahmed Shafik. While in a developed democracy this would be a healthy majority, in a state in revolutionary transition it is not the mandate for unilateral action that Morsi took it for. Almost half the voting public of Egypt sought a liberal independent President. The perceived authoritarian and Islamist actions and attitudes taken by President Morsi in the short time of his presidency assured that this block of voters were not won over to his cause. While at the same time a significant number of people who may have reluctantly voted for him also lost faith.
The greatest danger in today’s actions for Egypt is the return of the military to power. The unconstitutional actions taken by the military threaten all future civilian leaders of the country. It is possible that the ancient regime overthrown in 2011 could be in the process of re-establishing itself. We should not forget that Hosni Mubarak rose to power through the military and that the state he ruled was effectively a military dictatorship. The removal of Mubarak and then the election of a civilian president with no ties to the military saw a severe reduction in its authority and power. It is just possible that the actions by the generals today were much more about reasserting their perceived traditional power within Egyptian politics and much less about supporting a popular uprising against an unpopular president.
We can all only hope that despite the undemocratic and illegitimate actions of today that democracy may yet be given another chance to flourish in Egypt. One thing that is certain is that Egypt remains a highly volatile and unstable state in the process of revolutionary change. It is likely that there will be many more twists and turns to this story before Egypt’s democratic future can be assured