Happy Third of July, Egypt

Maha Ghalwash , Sunday 7 Jul 2013

The ouster of President Morsi puts the country's fledgling democracy back on track, despite international media's fears

On 3 July, General El-Sisi responded to the calls of millions of Egyptians to help them renew their bid for freedom, dignity and social justice.

With his help, the Egyptian people recovered their stolen revolution. Western pundits and leaders, on the other hand, are sounding alarm bells. They view the ouster of Mohamed Morsi - the country's first democratically elected president - as a military coup that has severely undermined democracy in Egypt. They rather darkly predict the eruption of civil war, or still worse, the return of military dictatorship. 

So what is the status of Egypt's democracy—is it in crisis?         

In fact, the overwhelming majority of Egyptians believe that Morsi's ouster puts the country's fledgling democracy back on track. This is easily confirmed by the trajectory of the 30 June Revolution:

First, ordinary Egyptians quickly came to understand that respecting ballot box results is not the only criterion of democracy. Other essential criteria, like the rule of law, checks and balances on powers, freedom of expression, protection of minorities' rights were repeatedly ignored and flouted by Morsi—much to the chagrin of virtually the entire spectrum of civil society (excepting the Islamist groups).

But what really prompted ordinary people to reject former President Morsi was his failure to address several pressing problems: the shrinking economy, security breakdown, power cuts and the Ethiopian dam proposal. This multi-fold failure prompted the popular demand for early presidential elections.

The presidential team scoffed at this idea and, instead, declared that they preferred to abide by the "rules of democracy;" completely forgetting that great leaders like General de Gaulle (1962) and Hugo Chavez (2004) were not above calling for referendums to determine whether they should be recalled from office. 

Here Morsi and his team left the Egyptian people with only one alternative—to recall their president from office via peaceful demonstrations.            

Second, these peaceful demonstrations were organised by the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign - a grassroots movement founded and led by 28-year old Mahmoud Badr. The movement's aim was to collect 15 million signatures against Morsi by 30 June, the first anniversary of his reign—and ended up collecting an astounding 22 million before that date.

Again, the presidential team scoffed at this news, claiming that their rival campaign, Tajarad (Legitimacy), had collected 26 million signatures in support of Mosi. In the face of this, some 33 million people took to the streets. Still, the Islamist government claimed that they represented the voice of the people and urged foreign observers to note the crowds (several million at best) in Raba Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda Square near Cairo University.

Top state officials, in tandem with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, showed no interest in dialogue or compromise, speaking of the protesters in derogatory terms and insisting that "legitimacy" was on their side. With the country grinding to a halt, crowds all over the country called on General El-Sisi to intervene.

Analysts critical of military intervention in politics urged Egyptians to examine the Algerian experience before going down this road: in 1992, the secular Algerians urged the military to cancel elections in order to pre-empt what seemed to be a landslide win for the Islamists. A bloody civil war ensued.

These analysts, though do not seem to realise that the Egyptian situation is the exact opposite of that in Algeria: the military's intervention came at the behest of the overwhelming majority of the people; these millions of ordinary people, with the youthful Rebel group at the forefront, have declared their intention to work with the military to protect the gains of their previously-stolen revolution. 

Here we point out that the Rebel campaign did more than organise the 30 June demonstrations; it specified a roadmap for the post-Morsi period, which included: the installation of the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court as interim president of the country; the formation of a technocratic government and early presidential elections. 

Third, the military respected these demands.

In his 3 July statement to the Egyptian public, General El-Sisi declared that the military, having learned the lessons of the past, understood that Egyptians do not want a return to military rule. And on 4 July, Adly Mahmoud Mansour, Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, was sworn in as president of Egypt.

Many Western journalists and news anchors wonder if Adly Mansour is no more than "a fig leaf" for military rule. While it is too early for predictions, still, most Egyptians confidently answer this question in the negative. 

This confidence is not so much grounded in the people's faith in the military as the nation's protector as it is in the people's faith in themselves, for one of the most important outcomes of the 25 January Revolution was the transformation of Egyptians from lowly subjects to citizens with rights. Furthermore, the 30 June Revolution came as a renewed expression of this transformation. So, if the new government decides to tread the path of tyranny and repression, it can be certain of being unseated by a free people.     


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