On Egypt: Speaking From Places of Privilege

I sit in the United States and view the world through my American Muslim experience. I know full well the place of privilege I occupy along with the the entitlement that goes along with it. I do assess the world through that point of reference, however, that doesn’t mean that what I might have to share, based off of my observations, are not meaningful pieces adding to a broader question.

There is a place for protest, and there is a significance for strategic maintained campaigns of civil disobedience. These are all tools of utmost importance in the democratic process. However, these tools go hand in hand with institutions and rule of law. They form the bedrock of democracy. Because protest and civil disobedience are very much acts of confrontation and desperation they should not be used without judicious evaluation.

Neither of which I believe is being questioned when it comes to Egypt. I think it was brilliant to see the amazing show of people power. I was inspired. However, thats not to say that I was disturbed and bewildered by the jubilation that followed the Egyptian military’s ouster of Morsi.

Who seeks democracy through a military coup? In order for the Egyptian army to do what it did it had to co-opt the Egyptian constitution, something the elected government could not out and out do, yet the military did without a second thought. After ridding itself of the legal document that restrained its power, the military head appointed a judge to the presidency, an electoral loser albeit Nobel Prize Winner- Beradai- as prime minister; and then issued a decree to arrest 300 Muslim Brotherhood leaders and activists shut down their news station, arrest journalist and storm and take over Al Jazeera broadcasting offices.

Yet those protesting insist this is not a military coup. This non-coup coup then simply is a continuation of the January 25 revolution. Yet from out of that revolution came the election of Morsi and the Brotherhood. Will all future elections after a year result in massive street protests that requires the Egyptian army to come in and declare the Constitution suspended, the elected government deposed and a caretaker government appointed?  Or will the military move to make it so that the Brotherhood can never participate in Egypt’s new democracy? Or will all Brotherhood wins int he future be branded as electoral corruption and malfeasance by the opposition?

In the 2012 election Ahmed Shafik, who ran against Morsi, got 12,347,380 votes while Morsi received 13,230,131. Morsi’s margin of victory was slim yet enough, in American election standards, to be declared a clear victor with the power to rule. No election occurs without fraud, yet these were considered the most fair elections in Egypt’s history. In fact when you look at reports of the elections it seems that much of the fraud was conducted to boost Shafik’s chances- nearly a million ID cards were given to Egyptian soldiers so they could vote for Shafik. A Pew poll in April 2011 showed that 75% of the Egyptian electorate had a favorable view of MB.

Because the opposition couldn’t get its act together and since the Brotherhood were the only organized- effective- force in the post-revolution power vacuum it was no wonder they won the election. Morsi had the mandate to rule, now whether he ruled democratically is of a very much debatable and also how the opposition sought to address his rule is questionable.

I want to be clear I have been sourly disappointed by what I perceive as a power grab and moves to undermine Egyptian democracy by Morsi. His attack on media, under the same Mubarak era claims; his subversion of NGO’s; the governments moves against minority’s and the lack of moving forward on establishing democratic institutions all can be chalked up against Morsi. However, this is a year of rule and this is a party that had never experienced democracy.

Neither of which suggests that these are valid excuses for the steps taken by Morsi. However, the jubilation of the military deposition and then aggressive moves to curtail opposition and the unfavorable press is no better then the actions of Morsi but rather worse because they occur without the restraints of a Constitution. They are extrajudicial, without balance of powers, without due process, without transparency. Instead of Morsi accumulating power to a Constitutionally defined position, Egypt has a military that has consolidated the power and now serves as the king maker, the balancer of justice and the source of legislative actions.

The questions I offered earlier still stand and are now starkly the only things that remain moving forward. Democracy in Egypt is now forever wrapped up in a precedence that will forever shadow civilian governments. One military coup is never limited, there just is a for it to occur again and again. In that game, Wajahat Ali reminded twitter that the game of coups is well played with Turkey standing at four coups and Pakistan followed by a close three. Egypt’s first democratically deposing coup is a first, however, in Egypt’s sordid political history one only has to look back at how King Farouk was deposed and how military dictators rose up to understand that history in essence is littered with broken democratic promises.

There is nothing to be jubilant about.  This action is a short term solution to a much deeper and longer term problem- Democratic institution building, which unfortunately will be tainted by a very ugly precedent.  In a democracy mature politicians agree to play by a set of rules and to abide by the results, then to go back to the polls and be held accountable for their actions.  The will of the people therefore isnt the will of a mob throwing a tantrum like a juvenile asking some authority figure to step in and do something, do anything even if its inconsistent with the way you want things to be like.   Saying that this isn’t a coup is just as ridiculous, when Mubarak was ousted that was a coup, except it happened to be a dictator and didn’t taste so bitter back then, but now the word coup seems to have quite a different taste.

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