Friday, July 05, 2013

EGYPT: Trying to understand how liberals could support a military coup

[01] The Egyptian army has moved in, suspending the constitution and removing the democratically elected government of President Mohamad Morsi. The opposition, consisting of a hotch-potch of supporters of the former dictator, some opposition parties and allegedly liberal opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood party (to which Morsi belonged), are cheering the end of democratic rule.

[02] Few Western news channels have broadcast the speech given by Morsi after the army announced he was being deposed. A partial English translation can be read here

[03] The elections which elected Morsi were largely regarded as free and fair. Many of those supportying Morsi's ouster were also supporting dictator Hosni Mubarak's ouster which took place when he resigned in February 2011. Jonathan Steele from The Guardian argues these points further here.

[04] Morsi and his aides have been taken into military custody. The Army has issued arrest warrants for some 300 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Are we now back in the days of President Gamal Abdel Nasser when the MB would be mercilessly hunted down and tortured? Will we be seeing military tribunals set up to try and hang MB members as took place under Hosni Mubarak?

"In the space of one night we are back 60 years," said Amr Darrag, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and former minister for international co-operation. "All of our leaders are being arrested in the middle of the night. Their houses are being stormed. Their children are being scared. All of our remaining leaders are banned from travel and this is just the start. "Yesterday we were part of the government doing what we thought was best for Egypt. Even if you don't agree with us, this has gone too far." 
[05] In his book Nasser The Last Arab, Palestinian journalist and Arab nationalist Said K Aburish writes about Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser's paranoia about the MB. Aburish further alleges that the MB received support from the United States, who prevailed upon Saudi Arabia to bankroll the MB not just in Egypt but across the Arab world. This was apparently confirmed by the son of Said Ramadan, one of the MB's senior leaders. Jordan's King Hussein provided MB leaders with diplomatic passports, and millions were directly transferred into Said Ramadan's Swiss bank account.

[06] "This is a celebration of the end of democracy" were the words of Channel 4 newsreader Krishnan Guru-Murthy. One protester he later interviewed had these words:

We feel excited. We feel so happy. We don't believe it. We don't believe it. We can do this everytime we have a president that who ignore us, that who doesn't see us, we will not just throw him away but we will kill him.

Liberal sentiments indeed.

[07] And what do the Yanks reckon? David Weigel writes in Slate that the Obama Administration is probably very happy with the outcome.

So we're back to a simulacrum of the 2011 situation. Power hasn't been taken from a secular autocrat. It's been taken from an increasingly religious and autocratic politician, someone who'd won an election but might have lost to a unified opposition ... No, despite years of "congratulations to Egypt!"-style pablum, this is probably the outcome the administration prefers. It's a mess that removes an unpredictable force right next to Israel, and replaces it with a reliable, undemocratic force.

[08] A New York Times report of 3 July 2013 seeks to explain why the military at first accepted the MB and then why their patience with Morsi wore thin.

Although many in the military distrusted Mr. Morsi’s Islamist background — the Brotherhood had been outlawed before the revolution — they welcomed his inauguration in June 2012 as an exit from the accountability of governing. Mr. Morsi also granted two key demands: squashing the possibility of postrevolutionary prosecutions of military officials for Mubarak-era crimes and passing a Constitution that excused the military budget from parliamentary oversight. That, plus the perception that Brotherhood members were at least competent and disciplined managers, appeared to give the military confidence that the Islamist group would be a worthy partner.
Apparently the army became upset with the economic stagnation and then protests in the streets. I'm not sure if an army is equipped to enforce desirable economic policy.

[09] The same NYT report ends with this perceptive remark:

... analysts said the opposition was na├»ve in cheering the military’s return to power as a step in the postrevolutionary transition to democracy. “The liberals and the revolutionaries are too quick to hop into bed with the military — it is not their friend,” said Mr. Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations. “The most important thing from the military’s perspective is preserving its place as the locus of power and influence in the system.”

To be continued ...