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MILITARY COUP D'ETAT IN EGYPT Murder of Nascent Democracy

Cover Story


MOHAMMAD PERVEZ BILGRAMI analyses the scenario in Egypt leading to the ouster of the first ever, democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt’s first ever, democratically elected President Mohammad Morsi was ousted in a military coup on 3 July, almost a year after his empowerment. The Head of Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and Defence Minister, General Abdul Fatah Khalil el-Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi last year, overthrew the President. It is pertinent to add that the US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel spoke to General Sisi a day earlier, viz. on 2 July, and conferred Obama Administration’s consent to carry out the coup d’état.

Al-ʾIkḫwān Al-Muslimūn, popularly known with its English acronym “Muslim Brotherhood” (MB), was long suppressed by the military dictators of Egypt. The group remained outlawed under the then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser until the 2011 “revolution”. The Arab Spring demonstrations against the despots provided the organisation with an opportunity to come out from the closet. MB en-cashed the opportunity in the first ever free and fair, democratic process of electioneering in the country and won both the Parliamentary and Presidential elections after the popular uprising that ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak from power.

Most of the experts are of the opinion that the full revolution never took place in Egypt as the whole bureaucracy, judiciary and other organs and institutions remained intact with the old regime left-over. After the removal of Mubarak, the revolution was stalled by Egyptian judiciary and military by just ousting Mubarak, his family and few close associates. The deep state cahoots never allowed President Morsi to perform freely and always created hurdle in the smooth functioning of the state.

Mubarak-era judiciary headed by the-then head of Supreme Constitutional Court, Ahmad el Zend declared the first freely elected parliament unconstitutional on the eve of Presidential election and later on barred all the Government efforts for the re-election of the assembly until the orchestration of successful coup d’état.

The deep-state in Egypt that remained vigorous, even after the fall of Mubarak, actively participated in the coup d’état. They have posed every hurdle in their armoury to stop the progress of democratically elected government in the country. Those who tolerated 30 years of Mubarak dictatorship could not tolerate a year of democratically elected Morsi government, because they never liked democracy to flourish in Egypt or elsewhere in the Muslim world.

National Salvation Front (NSF), a loose umbrella of liberals and Nasserites, always undermined the rise of MB in power as they could not digest the popularity of MB that had swept all the elections in post-Mubarak Egypt. The undemocratic liberals of NSF knew that they cannot beat MB in free and fair elections so they backed or even urged military leadership to stage a coup against the democratically elected government. Mohamed El Baradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahi could not cross even the first stage of Presidential race and are now vying for the political leadership of the country in an undemocratic way.

MB, the oldest and widely popular social organisation of the country, and its political wing Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) are deeply entrenched in Egyptian society. Decades of extreme oppression and torture could not quash the base of the organisation usually known for the charity, with chain of schools, hospitals and other public service utilities where state authorities have failed to deliver.

Most of the top leadership of MB, including deposed President Mohammad Morsi, are arrested and slapped with travel bans by the authorities. The broadcasting channels affiliated with MB and other Islamic organisations are off air since the coup d’état declaration. State run Al-Ahram news network reported that the crews of MB-owned Misr 25 were arrested, with staff at other channels allegedly evacuated from their offices. It is ironic that the so-called democratic liberals of Egypt are not only supporting the coup but trying to legitimise the undemocratic moves of the deep-state.

After decades of oppression and hardship and, acceptance of democratic process as the legitimate path to power, many Brotherhood supporters are angered and disillusioned by what is essentially the overthrow of a democratically elected president. They have made electoral legitimacy the most pertinent form of democratic legitimacy. The weeping Morsi supporters at Raba’a El-Adwyia mosque Square in Cairo tell the story itself.

In response to the army’s statement, Morsi delivered a recorded speech to a Brotherhood sit-in at the same Raba’a Al Adawiya Square, where they have been camped out since 30 June. He claimed in the speech to still be president, but is currently under house arrest. Similar to the speech a day before, he urged civilians and the military to uphold the law and not to accept the coup, which he said would turn Egypt backward.

Syrian Dictator, Bashar Al-Assad was among the first world leaders to congratulate the Egyptian Army for overthrowing President Morsi. Israel, on the other hand, is relieved after the fall of MB-led Government in Egypt so as the other monarchs of the Middle East. Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas of Fatah, the partner in “peace” with Israel, also congratulated the coup leaders of Egypt. The statements from the United States and the European Union did not even call the coup a coup; they were merely expressing concern and asking the soldiers to go back to a civilian rule as soon as possible.

Suffice to say, that although currently vilified, the Muslim Brotherhood is still the most significant part of Egyptian polity that will not simply go away after whatever happened since 30 June till today. It remains to be seen that the coup staged by General Al-Sisi will make him a “Pervez Musharraf” of Egypt or he will be compelled to reverse his decision before the time trickles out. 

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