By July 5, 2013 Read More →
Egypt’s Revolution Enters a New Phase

Egypt’s Revolution Enters a New Phase

Following four days of mass protests, Muhammad Morsi’s one-year presidency abruptly came to an end on Wednesday this week. The head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, was sworn in as interm president on Thursday. According to footage aired live on Egyptian satellite channel ONTv, (via Cairo-based news agency Mada Masr,)

The interim president asserted that he was looking forward to quickly holding another round of presidential and parliamentary elections that would reflect “the real will of the people, not a forged one.”

Technically speaking, Morsi’s removal from office was a coup d’état: a forced seizure of power by the military from an elected president. But this was only made possible by the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets to protest what many see as the Muslim Brotherhood’s ineptitude at managing the transition to a more inclusive political and economic order. As The Guardian Middle East editor Brian Whitaker notes

During his 12 months in power, Morsi’s performance was lacklustre and at times incompetent. That, however, was not the main reason why Egyptians took to the streets last weekend to protest in unprecedented numbers. Morsi put himself beyond the pale by promising inclusiveness and then spreading divisiveness, and by adopting a style of government that increasingly resembled that of the ousted Mubarak regime.

Has democracy been sabotaged? This depends of course on how narrowly one defines a ‘democratic’ political order. The Brotherhood’s own strict interpretation rests on the notion that electoral legitimacy constitutes the primary criterion of democracy. This was quite clearly unacceptable to many, if not most Egyptians. As Cairo-based journalist Ahmad Shokr observed in a recent interview, by leaving Egyptians with few avenues other than the street to express their grievances with state policies, the Brotherhood’s minimalist interpretation of democracy was central to its downfall. So where do things go from here? The Egyptian ‘street’ has proven once again that it is alive and kicking, politically engaged and unwilling to put up with more of the same failed policies that have held back development in Egypt for decades. This is a good thing. However, as Sumita Pahwa points out in an article for Arabist.net, “while a military intervention offers a chance to start over, it also entrenches anti-democratic norms and incentives.”

And then, of couse, there is the economy. Farah Halime reminds us, in this vein, that

… as the jubilant atmosphere of Tahrir Square begins to fade, there is one certainty: Egypt’s economy must be made an absolute priority, or risk repeating this scenario in another 12 months.

This is really a mirage.  The immediate gratification gained at getting rid of Morsi is at the expense of solving the basic bread and butter problems that helped push Egyptians onto the streets in the first place.

For example, resolving Egypt’s ever-increasing budget deficit, finally getting over a costly addiction to energy subsidies and actively creating jobs for the 1.2 million Egyptians who lost a job under Morsi (and the millions more who have been seeking formal employment).

Whoever takes over the helm inherits these problems and will likely meet a public backlash to any reforms.  The economic challenges have not gone away just because a Muslim Brotherhood leader was booted out.

 

Read More

Jon Marks – Egypt, Be Careful What You Wish For – Chatham House

Sumita Pahwa – The Trouble With a Coup for Democracy – The Arabist

Egypt’s Tragedy – The Economist

Jadaliyya – Interview with Cairo-Based Journalist, Ahmad Shokr, about the Political Dynamics in Egypt

Farah Halime – The Honeymoon is Over – Rebel Economy

Nathan Brown – Redoing the Egyptian Revolution – Foreign Affairs

Lisa Goldman – The Egyptian people rise up and overthrow Morsi – or was it the army..? – 972mag

Brian Whitaker – Legitimacy in Egypt – Al Bab

Jane Kinnimont – Checkmate for Morsi – Chatham House

(Wikimedia Commons image courtesy of Lilian Wagdy)

Posted in: Egypt, Middle East

About the Author:

William Oliver is Nabateans’ editor for international economics and Middle East current affairs. He obtained his degree in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. While his studies focused on the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries, William has a long-standing interest in international finance and the political economy of development. William’s work is aimed at understanding how the Middle East integrates with the global economy, and into the wider geopolitical landscape.

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