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Egypt Back to Square One!

04 July, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi


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Egyptian army has removed Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi of Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and has taken over power for the interim period. President Morsi assumed office on June 30, 2012 and has been deposed from his office today (July 3, 2013).

The decision to depose Morsi is taken by a council consisting of the defense minister Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi, the political figure Mohamed ElBaradei, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and the Coptic Pope.The army's action to depose president Morsi is being termed as a military coup against the ousted president. The interim period during which the council would replace Morsi means until holding of next elections for a newly elected government to step in. Following massive protests calling for his resignation, Morsi claims that his presidency is still valid and refuses to leave office.

Following the pitched protests at the famous Tehrir Square, the Egyptian Armed forces, on July 1, issued a 48-hour ultimatum which gave the country's political parties until 3 July to meet the demands of the Egyptian people. The Egyptian military also threatened to intervene if the dispute was not resolved by the government by that time.

On the expiry of three days deadline, the army moved into action of deposing president Morsi. The military plans to suspend the constitution, dissolve the parliament, and establish an interim government to be headed by the chief justice.

One is reminded of the 2011 massive protests at the Cairo's Tehrir Square for several weeks forcing the then president Hosni Mubarak to resign. As a result of the May-June 2012 elections, the Freedom and Justice Party headed by Mr. Morsi, with total support from the Muslim Brotherhood, won the elections.

But what the people of Egypt expected of the new government was not achieved. The people wanted civil liberties, social independence, and a combination of secular and Islamic culture. They wanted revolutionary changes for recovery of the economy and to refurbish Egyptian role as a leading power in the Middle East.

Primarily Muhammad Morsi, as a staunch leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, could not go beyond a certain limit to secularize the society and to switch over the political paradigm to an entirely western type of democracy. He wavered and got stuck up between an Islamic system of government and a democratic dispensation that would open up the society and free it from ideological barriers.

Thus far it could have been accepted by the Egyptian people who rendered historic role and offered great sacrifices for removal of the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak. But the people felt that instead of a military head of state, they were under the sway of a kind of fundamentalism that was as suffocating and oppressive as the military that ruled over Egypt since Anwar Sadat for 41 years.

As if adding insult to injury, president Morsi made certain decisions that were leading towards making him a kind of despot under the farce of democracy. He did not look much different from his hated predecessor who ruled Egypt with an iron hand brooking no opposition. It was not expected of Morsi to grant himself unlimited powers to "protect" the nation in late November 2012, besides assuming power to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts.

Although later in face of huge demonstrations against his questionable decision, he annulled his decree which had expanded his presidential authority and removed judicial review, yet he announced that the effects of that declaration would remain intact. It was like taking from one hand what he gave from the other.

On 30 June 2013, the mammoth crowd of protesters stated assembling in the famous Tehrir square calling upon Mrsi to resign. The swelling protests prompted the army to issue the ultimatum to the Morsi that if the protesters' demands were not met by 3 July it would step in and build a road map for the country. It however, clarified that it did not want to rule.

In order to explore and analyze the failure of Morsi and his premature departure from the power, three factors can be highlighted. First, ideologically, the President was unfit to lead a nation yearning for a colossal progressive change, for liberty, human rights, civil society, constitutionalism and a truly democratic dispensation.

The institution of democracy was installed with the popular vote but for its sustenance only a democratic-minded and moderate leader could be successful.  Morsi was totally imbued and brought up under the ultra conservative religious ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood that would keep the state governance within the orthodox parameters of Islam. So here was a contradiction between what the majority of Egyptian expected form the Arab Spring and what they found as a result of their protests for a change.

President Morsi seemed to be too much in a haste to usurp and concentrate powers in his person so as to stifle any opposition that might accrue from his mission of putting Egypt on the path of a rigid Islamic system in sync with the doctrine and philosophy of the Akhwan-al-Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood).

Unlike other countries where liberal regimes came into being, Morsi wanted to replace the military dictatorship with a kind of theological over-lordship. That did not work with the demand of the Egyptian people especially the youth who wanted a liberalized and emancipated Egypt like the west or the one that was established in Tunisia.

Secondly, the Egyptian army could not accept a person like Morsi as the head of state whose party has been in a state of perpetual confrontation with Hosni Mubarak and the armed forces in general for three decades. All the more he became a thorn for the army, when he sacked several army generals including the military chief Mohamed Hussein Tantavi, as soon he became the president.

Those decisions were his constitutional prerogatives and indeed were legitimate, yet these were repugnant for an army that was ruling the roost for three decades. So the army was on the lookout and the people returning to the Tehrir Square was the last straw and a robust excuse to remove Morsi. Had the army taken this decision without the popular uproar, it would have never succeeded.

The third strong catalyst in the deposition of Morsi was the deep ire and annoyance of Israel that was quite troubled and upset over the hard hitting anti-Jews statements that Morsi has been issuing from time to time.

For instance in a highly stinging statement in September 2010, he called the Israelis "blood-suckers", "warmongers" and "Descendants of apes and pigs", In another daring  statement he lambasted Israel by saying that "The land of Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not to the Zionists".

There could also be a backdoor collusion between Israel and the Egyptian army to remove Muhammad Morsi from the political stage of Egypt. He was acceptable neither to the Egyptian army nor to Israel.

Israel wants to maintain the same relations that were in vogue with Egypt, under President Anwar Sadat since October 1970 (killed by the Akhwan related army officers in October 1981) and continued by his successor Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak was too ousted from power on 11 February 2011, following 18 days of unprecedented demonstrations by the Egyptian people.




The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

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