In a democracy, governments are replaced at the ballot box, not at the point of a gun. The July 3 military coup in Egypt that resulted in the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi means the country’s experiment with democracy is failing.
With Islamist extremists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, firmly in Morsi’s camp, and the secularists, bolstered by the military, determined to keep the country from becoming another Iran, the future of Egypt is bleak.
Political unrest will be the order of the day, unless the military clamps down on the Brotherhood and other extremist groups the way dictator Hosni Mubarak did for so long. Mubarak was chased from office two-and-a-half years ago in what was known as the Arab Spring. The popular uprising then had the same markings as this month’s upheaval.
Mubarek’s one success
Mubarak did succeed in keeping the Islamists at bay for three decades. His departure opened the door to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaida and other such groups to rally their supporters in last year’s democratic elections.
A record turnout at the polls resulted in Morsi’s election and the very real prospect of Egypt becoming another theocracy in the region.
Despite the president’s assurances that his government was committed to the fair and equal treatment of all Egyptians, it became clear that the Brotherhood was less concerned about the economy, unemployment, power shortages and a general malaise among young people, than its Islamic agenda.
More than 22 million citizens signed petitions calling for Morsi’s resignation. The president refused to go quietly, noting that he had been elected democratically and that a military coup undermines the whole concept of a free society.
But leaders of the military, encouraged by the populace, charged that the government had lost its legitimacy and, therefore, needed to be replaced.
Morsi’s supporters immediately took the streets in the thousands, which caused the military to react with force.
At least 50 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been killed. On Wednesday, Egypt’s prosecutor general ordered the arrest of the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader and nine others for allegedly instigating violence.
Without a doubt, the arrests will further anger opponents of the coup. The Brotherhood this week rejected an invitation from the new prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, to become a part of the interim government. El-Beblawi was appointed by interim President Adly Mansour, whose transition plan has been criticized by liberals in the coalition.
The Islamists, meanwhile, have vowed to keep up the fight against the secularists and the military.
In other words, the future of Egypt hangs in a balance. New elections will be held, first for parliament, then for president.
Given last year’s result, there’s nothing to suggest that the Brotherhood will sit on the sidelines. Indeed, given the demonstrations in Cairo and other population centers in support of Morsi, the group’s participation in new elections is a given.
The secularists may have to take some of their cues from Mubarek’s success.
The secularists and military received a boost to their political fortunes with pledges of $5 billion in grants and loans from Saudi Arabia and $3 billion from the United Arab Emirates.
The two countries, like other Arab monarchies, are breathing a sigh of relief that the supporters of a theocracy are no longer in power in Egypt.
The next few months will be crucial. Cracks are beginning to appear in the coalition that was formed to oust Morsi and the Brotherhood. That’s not good news for the political stability of the country.