The Coup in Egypt

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The Coup in Egypt

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1Bretzky1
jul. 15, 2013, 12:45pm

I've been wanting to post something regarding the recent events in Egypt, but I wanted to wait until enough information was available that it didn't seem premature. I think enough information has now been released that there are a few things that can be said with relative certainty about what happened:

1) No matter how the US tries to spin what happened, it was a military coup. The Egyptian military forced out and took power from a freely and fairly elected government.

2) An obvious majority of Egyptians are happy that Morsi is gone, though they are not necessarily happy with how his departure was effected.

3) The major Egyptian complaints with Morsi had less to do with the way in which he governed (i.e., illiberally) than with the results of his governance. The Egyptian economy is a mess and violent crime in Egypt is approaching levels the US experienced from the 1970s to 90s.

4) While the US was consulted about and acquiesced in Morsi's ouster, the main foreign proponents of it were actually fellow Middle Eastern countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Jordan. The only regional state that appears to genuinely deplore Morsi’s ouster is Turkey. It’s one of the rare events these days in the Middle East that sees Saudi Arabia and Iran on the same side, even if only silently in Iran’s case.

2BruceCoulson
jul. 15, 2013, 5:52pm

Your points 1 & 2 lead to an interesting topic.

Yes, the military removed Morsi. However, they did so at the behest of the poeple; not as a result of internal disatisfaction. So, although it was a coup, it wasn't a traditional coup where the military then seizes power.

So, is this actually democracy in action, albeit in a very different form than what we are accustomed to?

3madpoet
jul. 15, 2013, 9:32pm

It's certainly an unusual case: a 'popular coup'. But there is also a sizeable segment of the population who support Morsi. If the differences between his supporters and opponents can't be decided at the ballot box, then how will they be resolved? More street demonstrations? Violence? Civil war? As the Economist noted, this sends an alarming message to Islamists: you can't trust the democratic process. Sure, you may win the election, but the military can remove you at any time.

4theoria
jul. 15, 2013, 9:51pm

One should not be surprised that even democratic-constitutional orders are backed by force.

5Bretzky1
jul. 15, 2013, 11:10pm

#2,

I suppose that depends on how one defines democracy.

I personally wouldn't go so far as to say that a coup that has the support of a majority of a population is democracy, but I might be willing to say that it is not reactionary against democracy. The most I'd be willing to say about what happened in Egypt is that it was democratically neutral. Whether is was deleterious to democracy in Egypt remains to be seen. Though I have a hard time believing that the Muslim Brotherhood, which is still the largest organized force in Egyptian society, will have anything to do with whatever elections finally result from this process. The army and the other parties are going to have a lot of lobbying and ego-soothing to do if they are going to get the Brothers back into the democratic fold. And without them an election that takes place in Egypt will be less than legitimate.

6madpoet
jul. 16, 2013, 12:47am

>5 Bretzky1: Exactly. You can't blame the Muslim Brotherhood (as little as I like them) of being skeptical of the democratic process (by which I mean the formal process of elections) after this.

7madpoet
jul. 16, 2013, 12:48am

>4 theoria: One should not be surprised that even democratic-constitutional orders are backed by force.

Egypt's 'democratic-constitutional order' was undermined by force.

8theoria
jul. 16, 2013, 1:21am

7> And if/when the state of emergency is suspended and ordinary political processes resume, they will be backed by force.

9HectorSwell
Editat: jul. 16, 2013, 10:01am

My view: There was no democratic-constitutional order to undermine. The downfall of Morsi was part of the transition from authoritarian rule that has yet to play out. There will be more constitutions written and disregarded before any kind of ‘order’ is established.

Egypt has never had democracy, which is more a process (and not just elections, but open, regular competition between parties, institutionalized forms of participation and representation for non-elites, etc) than a condition. The social capital required for democracy to take hold does not exist in Egypt; civil society there has historically been most vigorous in opposition to authoritarian regimes. As long as the military is the best organized institution and the only entity capable of claiming popular support as ‘representative of the nation,’ it will continue to dominate the political arena.

edited typos

10madpoet
jul. 16, 2013, 3:23pm

>9 HectorSwell: Morsi was elected in an election most observers considered 'free and fair'. He was removed in a military coup. That sounds like a step backwards to me.

The most important question is: what's next? Where does Egypt go from here? Is this the beginning of a long period of military rule 'for the good of the country' or can Egypt get back on track towards democracy?

BTW, one of the biggest problems with the situation in Egypt now, as I see it, is the lack of protection for individual and minority rights. Democracy isn't just about rule of the majority. The rights of everyone must be protected.

11Bretzky1
jul. 17, 2013, 10:55am

#10,

I'm not Egyptian nor am I an expert on Egypt, so I won't pretend to know what's best, but there is at least one major reform of the constitution that I would make to help stabilize the democratic process in Egypt: shortening of the terms of elected officials. For a period of at least 20 years, I would hold legislative elections every year and presidential elections every two years. The major incentive, to me, for Egyptians to come out onto the streets to have Morsi removed in an extraconstitutional fashion was the fact that he still had three years left in his presidency. If he were facing an election early next year, then maybe the opposition would have been willing to wait to oust him via the ballot instead of encouraging the military to remove him. You can time limit these shortened electoral cycles in the constitution so that in, say, 2033 or 2034, they would double to two years for the legislature and four for the presidency.

Another constitutional reform I would make is to increase the powers of the prime minister. What deeply divided countries like Egypt need to reduce the tendency for one side to monopolize political power is to create multiple sources of such power. If you increase the power of the prime minister relative to the president, then even if two MB politicians hold those positions, there's at least the possibility for disagreement and the splintering of political power, which hopefully encourages moderation. I'd also try to create another source of power in the judiciary by finding some way to keep the appointment of judges independent of politicians, at least for a few decades.

In other words, what I think Egypt needs, in part, is time to develop a culture of political competition that doesn't involve violence or intimidation.