Egypt’s “Revocouption” and the future of Democracy on the Nile

The argument over whether what happened in Egypt on Wednesday, July 3, was a coup or a revolution is really an argument over the legitimacy of the actions taken. If it was a revolution, it was perhaps a manifestation of the popular will, and so would have a sort of Rousseauan legitimacy. If it was merely a military coup against an elected president, then it lacks that legitimacy.

In fact, there certainly was a popular revolutionary element to the events, with literally millions of protesters coming out on Sunday and after, in the biggest demonstrations in Egyptian history. You can’t dismiss that as merely a coup d’etat from on top by a handful of officers.

But on Wednesday there was also a military coup, provoked by the officer corps’ increasing dissatisfaction with President Muhammad Morsi as well as a determination not to stand by as the country threatened to devolve into chaos, as rival street crowds confronted one another.

The Minister of Defense and de facto head of the military establishment, Brig Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was the one who set forward the framework for the change in government.

He said that the Dec., 2012, constitution rushed into law by Morsi would be suspended, and a balanced constituent assembly would be formed to revise it. (Dissatisfaction with the Muslim Brotherhood constitution was one of the drivers of Egypt’s Revolution 3.0).

There will be new presidential and parliamentary elections in the coming months.

The interim president is Adly Mansour, the acting chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Freedom of the press will be guaranteed, he said, and a mechanism established to allow the youth to be partners in making policy decisions.

Al-Sisi said that the officer corps had been in dialogue with the various political parties and forces since the crisis of November, 2012, when Morsi abruptly declared himself above the law, then pushed through a non-consensual, somewhat theocratic constitution (turnout for the referendum on it was only 30%), then tried to pack an upper house or Senate with Brotherhood members and sympathizers and use it to push through fundamentalist legislation. He said that all the political actors on the Egyptian stage showed a willingness to compromise to end the crisis except Morsi, who refused to show any flexibility.

A last attempt at national reconciliation, brokered by the officers, began June 20, but Morsi’s speech on Tuesday offered nothing that would satisfy the people.

In the end, the revolution and the coup worked in tandem. They were a “revocouption.” Such a conjunction is not unusual in history. The American Revolution against the British was a war before it issued ultimately in a Federal government, and the first president was the general who led the troops. Likewise, the 1949 Communist Revolution in China was not just a matter of the civilian party taking over; there had been a war of liberation against Japan and a civil war between Mao Ze Dong’s Communist troops and the Guomindang, and Mao’s leadership of the Red Army was central to the revolution.

The Rebellion or Tamarrud Movement began in late April (though it built on longstanding youth movements like Kefaya’s Youth for Change and April 6, which had come to see Morsi’s dictatorial tendencies as a threat to values of the revolution). Its young founders felt that President Muhammad Mursi, elected June 30, 2012, had broken his faith with the people and acted extra-legally so many times and so egregiously that he ought not to be allowed to stay in office. They engaged in two main sorts of collective action to get him out. One was a petition drive, in which they sought to collect 15 million signatures asking him to step down. He had been elected by about 13 million to 12 million against his rival Ahmad Shafiq, so 15 million signatures were enough to show that he had lost his popular mandate, in their view. The other was a call for millions to camp out in the main city squares of the country’s cities beginning on June 30, insisting that they would not leave until Morsi resigned and called new elections. They succeeded wildly with both tactics, and anti-theocratic sentiment was one of the reasons people joined them. Referring to Muslim Brotherhood leaders, crowds at Damietta chanted, “Katatni and Elarian: Egypt won’t become Iran.” The movement was a recall movement, similar to the one Californians launched against Governor Grey Davis when they made him run out of season against Arnold Schwarzanegger (Davis lost). The difference, of course, is that recalls are woven into California law whereas there is no such provision in the Egyptian constitution.

The split personality of the Wednesday revocouption was apparent in the positions many of the youth organizations took in favor of pluralism and of continuing to allow the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party to participate in politics and to run for office. Many of the youth seem to have seen Morsi as the problem, not necessarily his party.

In contrast, many of the military officers (and a section of the youth movement) frankly despise the Muslim Brotherhood as a manipulative and grasping cult that uses dishonest tactics to grab power and subject other people to itself. These anti-Brotherhood figures pointed to the attempt to prosecute popular comedian Dr. Bassem Youssef for criticizing Morsi as typical of the Brotherhood’s intrinsic intolerance.

The officer corps did not display much respect for pluralism after the 9:30 pm announcement of the road map.

They closed pro-Muslim Brotherhood television channels and arrested the reporters, though they only detained them a few hours before releasing them. This move appears to have been tactical, ensuring that the Brotherhood media could not help get out a call for resistance to the revocouption. Then the officers issued arrest warrants for 300 major figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, and proceeded to detain Morsi and his circle (including Essam Elarian and former speaker of the now-dissolved lower house of parliament, Saad Katatni), but also Muslim Brotherhood officials who had not held a government post, such as Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie and his no. 2, big businessman Khairat al-Shater.

The military appears to intend press charges against Morsi, Elarian and Katatni dating back to the late zeroes, when they were imprisoned. It was the January 25, 2011, revolution that allowed their supporters to break them out of jail. The military seems to want to insist that they were justly imprisoned for real crimes and that their jailbreak was a further act of illegality.

The mass arrests and the resurrection of Mubarak-era phony prosecutions are both extremely troubling, since they have the effect of criminalizing the Muslim Brotherhood and creating again the category of thought crimes in Egypt, the abolition of which was one of the gains of 2011.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters maintain that Wednesday’s events were nothing more than a seedy military coup against a legitimate, freely elected president. They are angry and despondent about having the military steal from them the fruits of their victory at the polls. Some more radical elements of the Brotherhood have threatened to turn to terrorism as a result of Morsi being deposed.

What Rebellion and al-Sisi have done is extremely dangerous. Not only does it risk undermining the legitimacy of democratic elections, it risks discouraging Muslim religious groups from participating in democratic politics. The danger is real. A similar revocation of the results of a revolution in Algeria late in 1991 threw the country into a decade and a half of civil war that left over 150,000 dead. The ‘debaathification’ program of the post-2003 Iraqi government, which was vindictive toward former members of the Baath Party, probably helped throw that country into a low-grade guerrilla struggle that continues to this day. Egyptians who think their country is immune from such phenomena are fooling themselves.

Egypt’s future stability and prosperity now depends on whether the officer corps and youth are mature enough to return to pluralist principals and cease persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood just because Morsi was high-handed. Their media has to be free and the 300 officials have to be released unless charged with really-existing crimes on the statute books. And it depends on whether the Muslim Brotherhood is wise and mature enough to roll with this punch and to reform itself, giving up its cliquish and cult-like internal solidarity in favor of truly becoming a nation-wide, center-right, democratic opposition party. If they take this course, they have a chance of emulating Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and one day coming back to power (an observant Muslim prime minister was forced out in 1997, but members of his party just regrouped and ultimately came to rule the country). If the Muslim Brotherhood adherents instead turn to terrorism and guerrilla actions, they will tear the country apart and probably blacken the name of political Islam for decades.

At the moment, neither of those two groups is demonstrating the maturity and high-mindedness that would reassure me about the prospects for a genuinely democratic transition.

49 Responses

  1. July is an insurgent month in the world revolutionary calendar. Today, July 4, marks the American Revolution against the British crown, while July 14 will mark the storming of the Bastille, the day of the French Revolution. However in the Arab world, it is a particularly historic and emancipatory month, since the Arab world’s first major social and political upheaval occurred on July 23, 1952 under Gamal Abdel Nasser, to be followed by another ‘July’ revolution in Iraq, on July 14, 1958 against another corrupt monarchy. Both were led by nationalist military officers. Now, on July 3 last night, with another bulldozing of an authoritarian leader by the Egyptian military, this is undoubtedly the Egyptian army’s finest hour, helped by 40 million strong brave and dignified Egyptian people. Short of shoddy armchair analysis or leftist adventurism, please realize that the Egyptian people are not stupid, having despatched TWO authoritarian leaders in the space of TWO years. Neither does the Egyptian military share any history and context with its Pakistani and Turkish counterparts, apart from the fact that it is one of the largest recipients of American pottage.Whatever happens in Egypt from this point on will decide whether there will be prolonged military rule or peoples’ power there. As the great Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqi wrote in the last century, “Freedom lies behind a door closed shut; it can only be knocked down with a bleeding fist.”

  2. Professor Cole, insightful piece as usual. As an American-Egyptian raised and currently living in Egypt, I agree with much of what you wrote, but do you think that organizations that resort to militancy as plan B would have ever properly carried out democracy as plan A?

  3. Juan, in some ways it reminds me of Turkey several decades ago. I visited Turkey in 1975 and still remember the military high-handedness.

    What happens when there’s a subsequent vote in Egypt and MB wins again?

    • Given that Morsi won 25% in the first round and in the second round many people held their noses and voted for Morsi over the candidate with regime ties, trusting his pledges of democracy, I’d not expect them to do so well.

  4. In a previous thread, I pointed out how MB thinker Sayyid Qutb beeved that a liberal, secular gov’t in a Muslim country is inherently illegitimate because it alienates the population from the Divine Law, thus condeming the society to stagnation and poverty, preventing national development Prof Cole, you stated that the “mainline MB” rejected this line already ih the 1960′s. However, what you wrote here about Mursi seems quite in line with Qutb’s views….that is is legitimate for an MB gov’t to try to instill as much Islamic law and values into society as possible and to ensur that the goverment is in the hands of true, pious Muslims. Could you clarify what you stated there?

    This has many, many parallels to the 1955 coup in Argentia that overthrew Juan Peron, who had been elected democratically but who had begun to behave in an authoritarian manner. He had been popular, but there was mass enthusiasm in the streets when he was ousted, just like in Cairo, but this left a large mass of embittered Peronists who were harrassed by the regime and left disenfranchised poitically. This lead to years of unrest, leading ultimately to a bloody reign of terror.

  5. A popular pluralistic revolution is just not compatible with rule by a corrupt, repressive military. The revolutionaries should have opposed military involvement as vehemently as they oppossed Morsi. Now the military is calling the shots. The same military that brutalized thousands of leftists is now setting the parameters for what comes next. T

  6. The new Egyptian Revocouption has a third main element in it, besides Revolution and Coup D’etat. That would be Occupation, as in Occupy Egypt. The occupation of Tahrir, effetively of Cairo itself, by such huge numbers, seems to have been the primordial/triggering phenomenon. That Egypt’s ‘Occupy’ movement needed to last only a short while seems less relevant to acknowledgement of its crucial role than understanding the inalienable stature of its role in ending the first stage of the MB’s attempt to dominate Egypt’s politics by hook or crook.

    What I’m wondering is if the events of 2011 culminating (so far) in the events of the past few days shares any aspects with its antecedent ousting/routing of Napoleon’s forces. This may be an overreach, but that would be because I foolishly haven’t read your book about the subject.

  7. It is very transparent that the Army was and has always been in charge for decades and I do not know how anyone thought that Mursi actually had true power.

    These ‘mirages of democracy’ are akin to a parent letting their children use small amounts of cash [like 5 or 10 dollars] but never ever letting them have any access to the “real money”.

    • I think it’s likely that Morsi, because he managed to ‘retire’ two highest-ranking military leaders without negative consequences, thought the military wouldn’t really pose any further significant problems for him. That only two days ago Morsi was threatening (bluffing) bloody resistance seems to show that perhaps indeed he thought he still held some kind of upper hand over the military, and also that the excess power/s he had usurped after his election had gone to his head.

  8. the writer descripe events in Egypt.He asked and said:those events were militry coup or poupler will? at the end of thie essay he said I fear from the Algiria model in 80th but i said the mouslims brotherhood in Egypt belief with pragmatic philosophy, and they will mix in political life becaues they have’nt any reform program,they jumped over their ideology.

  9. The recent events in Egypt was democracy in it’s purest sense. The people, en mass, with the help of the military, impeached a wrong doing elected president.

  10. I think that some of the states in USA does have a process to wave a parliment member by collecting signatures, only in Egypt politions all in all not just MB missed to put (or even discuss) something of the kind in the constitution,
    the army acted some how like the 6th chapter in the UN considering what’s happening as a threat to Egypt
    that’s the way i put it
    youth rebel any constrain on freedom and act in what they consider as “common sense” they has to force through streets while it is known political & legitmate tacts their leaders missed to consider
    still i blame opposition for not working with MB to force their power safely

    • Thanks, Just Somebody, for your thoughtful comment. I think you’re correct. However, at least from afar it seemed as if the MB left no doubt that the opposition would have no role whatsoever in the government. MB was authoritarian and not democratic at all. That’s why the MB’s complaint that democracy was overthrown by the military was so farcical. MB thought democracy was only about elections. MB is wrong about that. Democracy is about governing, and MB governed as an authoritarian party. There’s really no room in an actual democracy for authoritarian governance. That’s what’s so scary about the modern Republican Party in the USA. It’s become an authoritarian, even totalitarian Party, and in many of the states is governing in that fascist manner.

  11. In Germany, any party whose stated ideals are contrary to democracy cannot participate in the elections. I have no problem with this qualificiation and would love to see it implemented everywhere. Religious extremists and others who would revoke democracy if elected are automatically excluded from participating in a system they seek to dismantle. It’s fair and it works. Proof that a party is anti-democratic can be gathered in various ways. There would be no more problem with the Muslim Brotherhood if Egypt adopted this policy. They would either change a great deal, or be out of the running.

    • I agree with that sentiment, but I think it is not democracy that must be protected, but rather individual rights. Democracy, just meaning rule of the majority, is also mob rule unless it is constrained by constitutionally guaranteed individual liberty. The American founding fathers were very concerned in avoiding this. As James Madison wrote,”Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates; every Athenian
      assembly would still have been a mob.”

      • I’d be happy with that, too. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Why would you assume these two goals would be in conflict?

  12. The best ideal would be to have an Army ready to defend its citizens from any possible form of tyranny, contrary to what the US Army is doing right now -participating to strengthen the power of the well established oligarchs.
    Leaders must learn to feel uncomfortable with power. If they see that if they do not listen to the needs of their people and if they do not follow up their promises they get removed from power very quick, then maybe they will learn to value the power of the people who is giving them the leadership. I’d say let’s remove from power all the leaders every time when they did not respect the promises they made in their electoral campaign, after a year. Every year another ones, till some will finally understand why they are for there. This is the only way to educate this uneducated guys in matters of morality and patriotism.

  13. We’re beating the world to death with the word and concept of democracy.
    It’s not for everybody.
    I’m a decade in to living in a country (as an expat) that touts democracy, but delivers anything but. My chosen country will never understand, much less embrace, the concept of democracy as touted by the west.
    For myself; I’m burned out on the rhetoric and constant droning on about a concept that is not universal; that of democracy.
    The U.S. needs to get over itself and move on to more realistic forms of governance for many of the worlds people.

  14. ” If it was a revolution, it was perhaps a manifestation of the popular will, and so would have a sort of Rousseauan legitimacy.”
    Well, “popular will” correlates with public information which in terms correlates with who controls the rhetoric of it which in terms correlates with knowing contemporary IT (Social Networks) rhetoric.
    There is some indication that recent large “public will” demonstration are manufactured products of such Social Networks.

  15. Where is Athena in Cairo? Unless the Egyptian military comes up with another Nasser, Sadat, or Mubarak right away, Egypt remain incapacitated for the short term and sadly the long term. Transition to democracy has been messy everywhere, even in Athens! When you have a strongly (US)backed military as the only form of stable institution, high unemployment, incohesive impotent(in contrast with Saudi Arabia)fundementalism inside of a demographically impatient poor young population, the odds are not hard to figure out. Alas knowing the ending does not ease the pain!

  16. I think both the youth movement and the Muslim Brotherhood were outmaneuvered by the Old Guard. The power of the revolution that toppled Mubarak was that it combined the marketing prowess of the youth movement with the political muscle and organization skills of the Muslim Brotherhood. This combination removed Mubarak but the ancien regime simply withdrew and created space for the opposition. In the same way Bashar leveraged confessional differences to divide his opponents, the ancien regime in Egypt played on religious divisions. Both the Brotherhood and the youth movement fell into that trap and began to see their formal allies as existential enemies. As in the past, the ancien regime will first attempt to squash the Islamists. They will then snuff out the youth movement.

  17. Also, Occoupy Egypt.

    I wish the U.S. military and local police would’ve gotten behind their true natural economic allies and backed Occupy at the time.

  18. You make a lot of good points here, but the examples you give of past “recouptions” are not particularly apt. In both cases you give, the generals who came to power were the generals of revolutionary armies who had won civil wars, not the generals of the only existing army who seized control during peacetime (an unstable peacetime, by peacetime nonetheless), as happened yesterday in Egypt. There is a key difference with regards to legitimacy, because there is a degree of legitimacy that is conferred upon the victor in a revolutionary war that a peacetime army does not intrinsically have.

    A better analogy might be with the 1980 Turkish military coup, in which the army steps in and seizes control under the pretext of “political street violence.”

  19. The greatest danger, as I saw the massed throngs of people on Egyptian television, was no one doing anything. With such a large number of people shouting, “Leave!,” the danger of nonaction would be too great, turning a largely pacific demonstration into something violent and destructive. So, the will of the people was to have Mursi go, either voluntarily or with assistance. The Army, working as an agent of national security, merely assisted the people in achieving their goal.
    History has been replete with incidents that have placed the leadership at risk, ranging from shoes being thrown at an American pResident to lynching admitted fascists. It is a matter of ensuring that the persons who are expected to exit the public stage do not suffer any indignities that will make them either heroes/heroines or martyrs to anyone’s cause. The decision of the Egyptian Army was simple: act now while tempers are cool or act later when things can get really hot and messy, when the average citizens feel compelled to act in unexpected ways, individually or as a mob.
    What was al-Sisi expected to do? Stand idly by until Mursi’s ego threw the nation into turmoil? Commit armies to boondoggles that were easily preventable, instead of taking into account the long-term interests and needs of people on both sides of the dispute? Legitimise a long-marginalised group over the overwhelming majority of people whose own legitimacy was evident in their majority, having worked against Mubarek before and Mursi now?
    Both Mursi and al-Sisi have American academic backgrounds and it would be interesting to find out how their experiences in the United States shaped their views of events. The events occurring right at the same time as the celebration of the American Revolution is very much provoking of thought!
    All-in-all, it’s a matter of being able to do all of the necessary actions without any significant disturbances that is important at this point. And, the Brotherhood has emerged and perhaps now retreating back into the shaded areas will allow its vision to more adequately adjust to being in the spotlight.

  20. Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have only themselves to blame for their downfall and the Egyptian military’s assumption of political power. It was clear from the beginning that the MB had not changed its stripes, and that it wanted to impose an Islamist government on Egypt. They showed their hand early-on by stating they would not run a candidate for president and would not contest seats in the upper house of parliament, and then reversing themselves and doing both. It was an obvious bait-and-switch ploy to soften the image of their Islamist history and undermine the wariness Egyptians held regarding the MB agenda.

    Let us be spared soulful laments about the democratic process being subverted by the military. It was Morsi and the MB who began subverting the democratic process by ensuring a majority in the upper house of parliament and by ramming through an MB-inspired constitution that was heavily Islamist in content. Democracy is a lot more than just winning an election. Many groups, and I suspect the MB is among them, are quite willing to use the democratic election process to attain power, and then, having attained it, impose a very undemocratic regime on a nation.

    The prime example, of course, is the November 1932 election in Germany, in which the Nazi party won the largest number of seats in the Reichtag but failed to win a majority. A coalition government was formed, and in January 1933, President von Hindenburg legally appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor. In March 1933, through parliamentary maneuvering, Hitler and the Nazis managed to pass the Enabling Act, which granted the Chancellor (Hitler) powers to declare acts and laws without parliamentary input and approval. The beginning of totalitarianism in Germany had been established. All done legally. There was ample precedent for the Muslim Brotherhood to follow.

    One hopes that this whole miserable performance by Morsi and the MB, and the military intervention it prompted, will eventually result in a more secular, democratically-elected government. One also hopes that what is occurring in Egypt, the largest, most important country in the Arab World, will have repercussions in other Middle Eastern countries, and that those repercussions will result in more secular governments. Religiously-based governments, whether they be in Christian-majority countries, in Jewish-majority Israel, or in Islamic-majority countries, have no place in a modern political, economic, and social system. Religion should be confined to the church, temple, synagogue, and mosque. It should not be part of the political equation. I realize that this is a hard concept for some to swallow, but there it is. For those who say that were Islam to follow such a course it would not longer be Islam, my response is that the same thing was said of Christianity in the sixteenth century. A rational approach will recognize that religions can evolve, and an enlightened attitude will demand that they do so.

    • ” It was Morsi and the MB who began subverting the democratic process by ensuring a majority in the upper house of parliament and by ramming through an MB-inspired constitution that was heavily Islamist in content. Democracy is a lot more than just winning an election.”

      Thanks, Bill. You sum it up beautifully. It was farcical hearing MB supporters complain that Egyptian democracy was under attack.

  21. Just what I was groping for to describe what seems a widely shared ambivalence about the events …”revocouption” for indeed that is what happened.

    13 Vendémiaire????

  22. The wsj seems to think that the only reason that morisi left was due to a push by Obama. Further, when the border crossing at Ramallah opens we will know that the Egyptian populace is actually in control of their own govnt. Until then the bread crumbs of info released will hide who really is running the show, and their agenda. all we have now is tired speculation.

  23. There is a lot of discussion now of whether this will be called a ‘coup’. Apparently there are some legal niceties which may give the current Administration a script to fall back on.

    While the Administration leadership originally referred to the events as a coup — they were able to dodge the legal ball by referring to a part of a larger process which did not involve the military in direct rule or designated rulers.

    They may have some trouble in doing this in Egypt if the military continues with the heavy hand it has seemingly begun with, in particular the wide spread arrests of the MB leadership and the dissolution of the current parliament.

    Background Briefing on the Situation in Honduras

    Special Briefing
    Teleconference Background Briefing by Two Senior Department Officials
    Washington, DC
    July 1, 2009

    QUESTION: And so this is properly classified as a military coup?

    SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean, it’s a golpe de estado. The military moved against the president; they removed him from his home and they expelled him from a country, so the military participated in a coup. However, the transfer of leadership was not a military action. The transfer of leadership was done by the Honduran congress, and therefore the coup, while it had a military component, it has a larger – it is a larger event.

    link to state.gov

  24. The Egyptian people were smart to get rid of an ineffectual religious conservative leader before he had a chance to embed his party into the government. Then it would have been much harder to depose him. Since the Egyptian military is economically tied to the country’s economy, they weren’t happy with Morsi trying to impose a religious dictatorship on the country instead of improving the economy. If Morsi had the best interests of the people at heart, he would have done something for them.

    The people have our country as an example of what happens when a right-wing conservative party gets a foothold in government and cultivates the religious crazies as a voter base…and they’re smart enough to want no part of it.

  25. No one is denying or disputing that there were many many people in the streets shouting their discontent against Morsi. No one! But that does not justify in any way and shape the actions taken by the military. Deposing a legitimately elected official sets a very dangerous precedent in a young democracy, and it is a coup. You can put as much lipstick on that pig as you can Dr. Cole, it will not change the fact that what happened in Egypt meets the minimalist and/or the maximalist conceptual definition of a coup d’etat. The rest is really not important. I even heard a new expression, “Coup with adjectives,” which shows how creative some people are becoming these last 2 days.

    The military just can’t help themselves. These are the same corrupt, authoritarian, criminal and torturer military that sucked the blood of the Egyptian people since Nasser. These are the same military who own approximately 30% of the Egyptian economy. And now, they have somehow became lovers of freedom and grand protectors of liberty and rights. To read some columns, i thought Al-Sisi was Thomas Jefferson and Al-Baradei was James Madison. Give me a break!

    You said that street was boiling with people, well let the street face the palace, and let them fight it out. Surely, it wouldn’t have been the first time that protests curbed the appetite of a leader or changed policies. Although, we have plenty of examples here in the US or the UK where the leaders just ignored the streets completely (example, LBJ, Nixon, Bush II, Thatcher, De Gaulle and so on and so forth).

    At no moment did the military pressure or voice it discontent or interfered or intervened (though De Gaulle had some problems with a faction of the military post-1958) in civilian democratic governance. And if the military reacted and said one word, we would have all been horrified and we would have all been screaming bloody murder. If we are talking about approval rating, Margaret Thatcher’s approval rating during the poll tax protests/riots was in the low 20%. Is that enough for the British military to depose her or depose her party? After all, there were violent riots, protests, and casualties every day in almost every city. How about May 1968 in France and De Gaulle, did the military just send an ultimatum to De Gaulle telling him to find a solution or else? Actually, De Gaulle went on TV and called the protests “Chienlit”–meaning, a joke or a carnival, but the way he said it hinted that he had in mind some scatological reference.

    So, why is it not ok for the military to intervene in western democracies and push elected officials and governments aside and it is ok and a blessing for the military in Egypt to do whatever it wants? Why is it “tyranny” if it happened in western democracies and “revival of democracy/revolution 2.0″ etc etc when it happened in Egypt?

    Is our/your judgment Dr. Cole tainted by the fact that we/you feel antipathy and aversion toward the MB and Morsi? Are we/you being objective in your analysis? Do like post-modernists do, state your bias and go about your descriptive pieces. At least, we would know where you stand and what’s your bias.

    I don’t like the MB and i think Morsi has been so far a horrible president. All my antipathy and aversion aside, i cannot justify what happened in Egypt as a revolution 2.0. It sounds so out of place that my fingers refuse to type it. What happened in Egypt is a coup d’etat, as simple as this. And it is coup led by a group of counter-revolutionaries and remnants of the Mubarek regime. Nothing more and nothing less. Like like in Thailand in 2006 and in many many instance in Latin America. We never hesitated to call those coups coups. So, let’s not start now.

    To me, Egypt is no longer a democracy. It meets the perfect conceptualization of an elected authoritarian state with a gigantic veto player sitting in the corner called the military.

    Anything else falls under dishonest scholarship and shabby analysis and just plain ‘ol bias.

    • Tahar, it seems Morsi was putting Egypt on a quick path to its own totalitarianism. Every situation is different. Egypt’s truly is unique, despite sharing characteritics with other past situations. You wrote, “You said that street was boiling with people, well let the street face the palace, and let them fight it out.”

      I disagree with your wild west advocacy of violence, of likely many thousands, even tens of thousands, ultimately killed, and perhaps years of Syrian-like civil war. If the fighting had begun, even the military could have broken down into factions fighting one another.

      If you can forestall the bleeding or stop it early, and transition to likely an actually more democratic society, as the military has done, then your one-size-fits-all definition may still be technically true, but so damned what? That doesn’t make it wise or fit the unique situation.

      • Larry Piltz: By “let them fight it out” i meant argue, debate, protest, and put pressure on the executive until it yields. This could have led to a resolution of the situation without the military intervention, and therefore the coup. Even the members of the young Egyptians didn’t want the military to intervene and they issued a statement in that sense.

        Although I didn’t mean to have an all out bloody fight, but that bloody fight and that bloody violence is now more probable than ever before. Do you think that this situation would not lead to a very probable civil war? The writing is on the wall my friend.

        In addition, you said that “it seems Morsi was putting Egypt on a quick path to its own totalitarianism.” The operating word here is “It seems.” This is just a speculation. And do you think now we don’t have the roots of authoritarianism deeply implanted in Egypt? Just read the headlines of the NYT or Wa-post or of any other decent newspaper.

        Finally, Egypt is not unique. There is no such a thing as a place or a situation that is so unique that it doesn’t share any characteristic with any other situation or place or country that a comparative framework cannot be constructed. Mathematically, this is an impossibility. There is a huge sub-field of political science whose sole purpose is to compare things and Egypt is just case among other.

        Finally, I see how the military is reaaaaallly restoring democracy in Egypt. They did that by shutting down a TV channel close to the MB, shutting down Al-Jazeera feed from Egypt, and under military orders, the prosecutors went on a widespread roundup of top MB members and close adviser of Morsi (link to nytimes.com). Long live democracy a la Egyptienne, as the French would say.

        The military cannot help itself. They have the gene of authoritarianism coded in their DNA. Just like any other military from Latin American to Thailand, every military coup led to more repressive policies, not more freedom and liberties. And the Egyptian military is not an exception.

      • One last point: If Morsi was setting himself to be the new all powerful dictator of all time, wouldn’t you find those powers in the new constitution that was adopted by 64% of the Egyptians?

        Well, let’s see: I am not going to list every article (since i am sure you read that tyrannical document very carefully), but this tyrannical document that compelled the poor brave military to leave their barrack to protect freedom and liberty ends Egypt’s all-powerful presidency, institutes a robust parliament with check on the executive, and has serious provisions against torture or arbitrary detention without a trail–basically, establishing Habeas Corpus, which our Abraham Lincoln canceled during the Civil War–I think General Grant should have deposed Abe Lincoln, the tyrannical president. Oh wait, yes Abe fired 10 generals during the civil war…wow what a example of the supremacy of the civilian over the military.

        By the way, the Islamist organization called Human Right Watch said that the new constitution adopted by Egypt provides for protections against arbitrary detention and torture and for some economic rights extended to the Egyptian people (check Human Rights Watch Report of November 30 2012).

        So, yes he was on his way to establishing a serious authoritarian regime the like of which we have never seen :) Again, did he make mistakes? Absolutely. Was he a bad president (he should not have listen to the IMF and he should have engaged in a serious deficit spending, but that would have led to other consequences)? Probably. Was a military coup justified? Absolutely not.

        There is an old French saying that says “If you want to kill your dog, accuse him of having rabies.” Well, let’s just say that Morsi had rabies LOL

    • Tahar, I do not want to be out of context but ALL your are arguments do not apply to the Egyptian situation. Do not start a story in the middle (ousting Morsi) Why not go back to 2011 with safe exit deal between Tantawi, the military and the Islamists. Why not follow the circus of Islamist’s parliament that dissolved by the law. Why not see how the used religion to lure people in a poor country to vote for them ? Why not look how they took down the economy and how they wanted to change VERY essence of the Egyptian nation. Why not see that Western Democracy model except for a few countries may be a failure, Bush II caused HAVOC all over the planet and destroyed the US economy. Thatcher ? Ask Argentina ! What about Blair ? lying to people and staying power till the next poll time Ain’t this a crime ? What was more dangerous ? Clinton getting a blowjob from a girl behind his wife’s back ? or GW Bush II three main wars ?
      If you do not understand about the situation, do not give us false philosophies. Tahar either your International MB or one of those people living in the comfort of the West and speaking virtue and right to chained poor people in countries like Egypt. Chains are not necessarily iron or steel , some time they made of extremism , religion and fake virtue !

  26. The coup and its supporters seem clearly anti-democratic to me. How can there be democracy if one of the main parties is being repressed? Also, isn’t one of the conditions of democracy that the various parties agree to abide by the rules of the game? They agree to allow their opponents to govern for an agreed period if they win elections. Without this they are not agreeing to democratic process.

    • Peter wrote: “Also, isn’t one of the conditions of democracy that the various parties agree to abide by the rules of the game?”

      It seems that you have just now tuned into what’s been going on in Egypt since 2011 and know absolutely nothing of how Morsi and his party sabotaged and thwarted democracy and instituted complete one-party rule while setting themselves above the law, saying it doesn’t apply to them. Please be someone who pays more than the least bit of attention to the subject you’re wanting to discuss, or at least do the slightest bit of research if your comment is going to not be a waste of time.

      • Newsnag, All you have done is parrot generalities. Pls be specific about the things morse did unconstitutionally or illegally. Also, do not forget to list the decrees the Mubarak era military announced to thwart morse. The fact remains this was a military coup and no amount of beating around the bush can change that,

    • When you buy a can of Tuna with valid expiry date, you open it and it is rotten, do you HAVE to eat it ?
      When you rent your house to person to live in and he changes the usage to Disco or Horse Stable, do you wait till the end of the contract or take him to court and evacuate him ? The MB and Morsi did exactly that ! Morsi with his November Constitutional declaration ended his own legitimacy !

  27. Not to quibble, but, if I had edited, I would have struck out the line equating the recall in California and the current events in Egypt. There’s nothing similar, and, as an attempted analogy, it does not aid in understanding the events that led to Morsi’s downfall.

  28. Dear DR. Cole,
    I am the state (Louis XVI). This is how Morsi addressed his people.
    Democracy is a lot more than just winning an election.
    What would you rather have 33 million protesting against sectarian rule do? Storm the Bastille !!
    I would like to remind you and every body that four Egyptian Shiite Muslims were killed on Sunday 26/6/2013 after his inciting speech that was addressed to his fallow MB and their supporters; when they were attacked by a hostile mob in a village in Giza province near the capital.
    People of Egypt feel that their 25th January revolution 2011 was hijacked from them by a cunning plan approved by the USA and handed over to MB on a golden plate.
    This is a correction of revolutionary road.
    The armed forces of Egypt had no other option to avert blood shed, but to side with request of the masses.(call it 2nd wave of revolution). The military did not appointed a military leader in charge nor a council.
    Morsi and lead members of the MB were in prison when 25 January 2011 revolution occurred. Their planed escape involved help from Hamas ( MB of Gaza), storming the prison, freeing them and in the process the governor of the prison was shot dead ( Loaa Elbatran). No investigations what so ever was mad into this. What is more President Morsi issued a presidential pardon to many criminals including those who killed President Sadat.
    As for closing pro-Muslim Brotherhood television channels. If you have lived in Egypt and read and witnessed the contents of these channels; any decent society would have taken such action (Please examine the contents of these channels) .

  29. don’t forget that all of this was preceded by collecting 22 million signature for the application “rebel” (or so they say and asked for an international count; infact we’ll never know for sure)
    if collecting signature is considered a reasonable democratic method to change a parliment member then why not a president?
    only since it was not in law they had to push in the streets till the army responded

  30. “I would like to remind you and every body that four Egyptian Shiite Muslims were killed on Sunday 26/6/2013 after his inciting speech that was addressed to his fallow MB and their supporters; when they were attacked by a hostile mob in a village in Giza province near the capital.”
    Does Egypt have any law against incitement to violence? Then why not charge him and fulfill the intent of law and enrich all Egyptians, in fact why not charge the army command for issuing ultimatum to the president and encouraging the protestors, why play the three card game of now you see the president and now you don’t. Rebel fashionista and opposition took the easy road and chose Morsi (MB) the deposed over Morsi (MB) the failed. They should declare solidarity with MB and petition the generals for his return and treat him like you would any dignified Egyptian, with respect and within law. Less they be next.

  31. A bad and dangerous buss driver holding a valid driving licence.

  32. Morsi was never elected democratically.

    In a democracy, religion and state are separated because a religious state will discriminate against those who don’t belong to that religion. Morsi came to power through a religious party and brought with him Islam that was then inserted into the constitution.

    Furthermore, in a democracy, it is the right of the electorate and the candidates to question or criticize the other party and its ideology.

    So is it possible to criticize or question Islam, the ideology of the MB, in Egypt? If the answer is no, which it is, then this was not a democratic election.

    The solution to this is to ban participation in politics by religious parties, clerics, or those who plan to set up a religious state.

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