The Fall of A Legitimate President
By Atif Shamim Syed
The Army insists that it did not carry out a coup. Infact, overthrowing Mohamed Morsi, the first elected president of Egypt, was what the majority of Egyptians wanted. His fall came about in the wider public interest of the people of Egypt.
It was true that Mr. Morsi ‘s government was inept and inefficient, and many people did welcome the military’s coup and subsequent toppling of the president elect. However, the events currently unfolding in the Arab world’s most populous nation may not bode well for democracy in the country, and the entire region. The Egyptian army is following the examples of Arab dictators who grabbed power and subsequently consolidated it firmly into their own hands – all in the name of the will of the people. Their supporters in the streets legitimized the removal of unpopular, but legitimate, rulers and re-affirmed the notion that only the army knows what is best for the country.
The Judiciary and the military are two institutions in Egypt that are not accountable to the civilians. Rooted in the Mubarak’s regime, both these institutions are overly secular, extremely authoritarian and corrupt to the core. Right after deposing the president, the army gave assurance to the United States that it will hand over power to an elected civilian government as swiftly as it can since it had no plans to intervene in the political process. However, the facts on the ground tell a completely different story. The army is arresting members of the Muslim Brotherhood while overlooking, and in some cases even encouraging, the acts of violence carried out by other parties against Mr. Morsi’s supporters.
For six decades before a popular uprising unseated Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the Muslim brotherhood sat in opposition and bore the brunt of the military’s wrath. The Muslim Brotherhood, in its long history, has always made compromises whenever it has faced an impossible situation or a staunch enemy. Its ability to make compromises has been the main strength of the group that not only enabled it to successfully endure the harsh repression of the military, but also let it flourish during the hardest of times. This time, however, the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t show any signs of either backing down or seeking a compromise. It has called for an uprising and vowed to keep protesting until their president is reinstated. The group argues that Mohamed Morsi was an elected president and he could be only lawfully deposed through the ballot after having completed his term. The Brotherhood seems to be ready to take on the army despite the fact that it barely stands a chance against Egypt’s’ most powerful institution.
The Muslim Brotherhood has taken this bold step under two assumptions: Firstly, it believes that the army itself is divided over the crackdown being carried out against it. Further escalation in violence will fragment the army’s ranks. There is no way of knowing the general perception of the army rank and file below the generals but the Bothers’ belief is validated by some recent events. In 2011, the military did not order a crackdown in Tahrir square for fear that the soldiers stationed there will refuse to obey direct orders. The Muslim Brotherhood also has a significant number of supporters in the army who, the group believes, will prevent a complete crackdown against it. The generals must also contend with the fact that when the time comes, some of its soldiers will shy away from firing on their own countrymen like they did in Tahrir.
Publicly, the Muslim Brotherhood is holding only the generals responsible for the coup while maintaining that the rest of the army was not part of the conspiracy. After the massacre of Brotherhood supporters outside the Republican Guard headquarters on Monday, the organization published on its website reports about soldiers who refused to obey orders and threw their weapons in protest.
Second, the group has hundreds of thousands of members who will continue to protest the president’s removal even if they have to risk their lives. Muslim Brotherhood leaders know that they can continue to call the groups’ foot soldiers indefinitely. On the other hand, the generals will never take the suicidal step of reinstating the deposed president. The situation is inching towards a stalemate at the end of which one side will lose all.
The so-called liberals in Egypt who are supporting the coup and showering praise on the military for protecting the principles of freedom and democracy, have either by ignorance or design, failed to notice that the first act of the army was to shut down media network in the country. But the liberals’ attitude confirms with their past behavior. The secularists across the Middle East have never fared well in elections since they have little support among the masses that are traditionally tilted towards religion. In order to make up for this shortcoming they have always aligned themselves with repressive military regimes. Religious parties, on the other hand, fare well at the ballot due to their emotional appeal. They, however, lack governing experience. Secularists always end up monopolizing power by carrying out a systematic and deliberate exclusion of religious parties. The end result is further radicalization of religious parties since they lose trust in democracy – and for good reason.
Those jubilant Egyptians who were celebrating the fall of their elected president failed to notice that they too were victims of police brutality only two years ago. The same police that conveniently left the scene and reappeared immediately when there were signs that the old regime may again be reinstated. What Egyptians have failed to realize as yet is that the excuse of ‘wider public interest’ that facilitated the overthrow and victimization of one party and its legitimately elected president today, will tomorrow justify targeting anyone who dares question the rule of the military.
And to be very frank, if the military was unable to tolerate Mr. Morsi’s undemocratic behavior for a single year, why and how did it allow Mubarak’s dictatorship to remain in place for decades?
Atif Shamim Syed is an Investment Banker and has been writing articles for several newspapers and magazines. He writes on current events in Urdu and has published several of his works. Apart from Urdu, Syed speaks English, French, Arabic and Gujraati. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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