By Tarek Radwan | July 04, 2013
Things in Egypt are moving quickly—too quickly for comfort. Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s announcement warning of a forty-eight hour window to solve Egypt’s political problems, government officials and ministers jumped the sinking ship, as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood found themselves in a struggle for political survival after rocketing to the top of the political food chain only a year earlier. And then the army dropped its hammer. Morsi no longer rules Egypt and the revolution appears to have returned to square one after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
After only four days of mass anti-Morsi protests and counter protests, violent clashes that left eighteen dead and hundreds wounded, and extreme rhetoric and rumors on all sides, the Egyptian military rolled out its armored personnel carriers and troops in an effort to control key state institutions and protest areas. Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front (NSF) and appointed negotiator between the military and Morsi’s political opposition, spoke to a crowd of millions about a rejuvenated revolution, just as the Egyptian presidency released a statement rejecting what they view as a military coup. Secularist and anti-Morsi protesters celebrated well into the night but Islamists decried an attack on their legitimately elected president and their faith. The question remains: Is military intervention a step forwards or a step backward for Egyptian democracy?
The complexity of what the world is witnessing in Egypt cannot be understated. Its international partners cannot ignore what Islamists are lamenting: Morsi is the first freely elected, civilian president in Egypt’s history. Neither can observers disregard that a forcible removal of Morsi from office by the military is the very definition of a “military coup,” regardless of the individual or group that replaces the incumbent. However, the view that a military coup is an inherently obstacle to democratic development needs to be reexamined in light of the massive popular outrage that has poured out into the streets of Tahrir, the Presidential Palace, and across the country.
Many analysts and government officials struggle with an apparent catch 22: support the Egyptian army’s action and risk hypocrisy in light of calls for democratization, or condemn Morsi’s ouster and risk accusations of standing against the will of millions of Egyptian citizens. Is there a middle ground? Why do so many feel the impulse to celebrate a return to military control? The answer lies in the disastrous mismanagement of Egypt’s transition at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi has directly contributed to the most intensely polarized political environment in recent memory. He and the Muslim Brotherhood have practiced exclusionary politics when political consensus proved too difficult, or simply a meaningless pursuit in their calculation. These misguided policies led to a pattern of human rights violations that limited free expression, exacerbated sectarian tensions, and supported government impunity. The political crisis compounded the economic crisis, as the fiscal and budgetary deficits trickled down to the poor and middle class whose need for food and fuel outweighed faith in an Islamist system.