Friday, 5 July 2013

EGYPT: Revolution Reload & Military Coup

On Wednesday, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's announcement of the removal of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy, suspension of the Constitution, and early presidential elections has brought Egypt's latest political crisis to its endgame. Adly Mansour sworn in on Thursday, as the country's new interim President and along with cabinet of technocrats, he will govern the country until new elections.

Nobody should celebrate a military coup against Egypt's first freely elected president, no matter how badly he failed or how badly they hate the Muslim Brotherhood. Turfing out Morsy will not come close to addressing the underlying failures that have plagued Egypt's catastrophic transition over the last two and a half years. The military's coup is an admission of the failure of Egypt's entire political class, and those now celebrating already probably know that they could soon rue the coup.

There are a variety of explanations for Egypt's tribulations. Some argue that decisions made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)  back in February and March 2011, including on the timing of the transition and the principles that guided it, explain the current bind. Others point to the lack of a permanent constitution and parliament, which the SCAF dissolved in June 2012 at the recommendation of Egypt's highest court.

These critics argue that the absence of rules, regulations, and laws left the country vulnerable to the whims of incompetent generals and then authoritarian Islamists. Egyptian liberals and secular revolutionaries, meanwhile, fear the Islamist ideology of President Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader. Egypt's newly approved draft constitution, which includes a particular interpretation of Islamic law, and a massive Brotherhood-sponsored rally last Saturday to "save sharia" from opponents of the new code only reinforce their fears.

The Muslim Brotherhood performed atrociously in power, but the real problem was always the weakness and illegitimacy of the political institutions. If the coup and uprising solve the first at the expense of the second, then the political reset will fail.

There remains a very real, urgent risk of major violence and further political or even state collapse, of course. But even if the worst is avoided, Egypt faces a real risk of becoming trapped in an endless loop of failed governments, military interventions, and popular uprisings. The very idea of democratic legitimacy has taken a severe beating, and the coming constitutional reforms and new elections will not pass easily.

The primary focus now should be on finally finding such a consensus on the path forward, whether through constitutional amendments or a national "round table" of the major political forces and societal groups. Without such a consensus and a clear pathway toward new elections, the patterns of political dysfunction will just continue to replay endlessly even as the faces and positions change.

Can that be achieved? Certainly, recent experience is not promising. The Egyptian military has already proved its own inability to effectively run the country, and military coups are rarely a viable pathway toward democracy or stability.

The opposition has proved its ability to mobilize the streets around big focal-point issues like deposing Morsy, but remains as deeply internally divided as ever and has no common policy agenda.

The Muslim Brotherhood has lost a lot of support but still commands a significant base that will feel deeply aggrieved, disenchanted with formal politics, and fearful for its personal safety. Other Islamists are playing their cards close to the vest, likely hoping to benefit from the Brotherhood's failure, but have not likely abandoned their ideological goals. And the mobilization, some call it '' Revolution Reload'', that led to June 30 has heightened polarization, mutual demonization, dehumanization, and fear.

I remain deeply skeptical that the military coup is to be a pathway to democracy or that the Egyptian military is able to navigate the political waters any better today than it did in 2011.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist
African Affairs Expert