It was the Egyptian “mob” that brought Muhammad Mursi into power and it was the same mob that swept him out of power. During the interim he managed to do some things for his country but in the minds of many alienated himself and his party from the majority of Egyptians.
Immediately after his rise, ascent to power, Mursi was faced with the usual Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and particularly in Gaza. No doubt he was being goaded by Israel in order to test his mettle. His response was he surprisingly managed the situation in a way to avoid further aggression and even win the praise of some in the West. At the same time he helped Gazans in a show of humanitarianism rarely seen in Middle East politics.
Despite the intense economic difficulties facing Egypt Mursi refused to devalue the Egyptian pound, which would lower export costs and might be a short-term fix but have a negative impact for a majority of Egyptians. He was in the process of negotiating with the IMF for a loan that some said was necessary but wanted, during his negotiations, to avert the catastrophe of the ’70s when there was an increase in prices due to the IMF mandated reduction of government subsidies for necessities. He almost seemed to be adhering to a GOP platform of no new taxes, refusing to raise taxes on alcoholic drinks, cigarettes and a range of goods and services because of the impact it would have on Egyptians. Surprisingly, he and the IMF were even negotiating on those issues.
Mursi, however didn’t help himself much with some really stupid mistakes, like decreeing to himself powers that resembled the actions of a dictator, only to rescind such decrees a month later
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has scrapped a decree that had generated widespread unrest by awarding him near-absolute powers…..
Selim al-Awa, an official who attended a “national dialogue meeting” called by Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo but boycotted by his opponents, said the Islamist-dominated discussion recommended removing articles that granted the president powers to declare emergency laws and shield him from judicial oversight.
and having the baggage of the Muslim Brotherhood, that much maligned Islamic party certainly didn’t help Mursi’s chances with many Egyptians and others across the Arab world who feared a politically strong Islamist power in the most powerful and populous Arab country.
The problem with Mursi’s rise to power is that it was done at the behest of the mob and mobs by definition are unruly, lawless masses of people who are not visionary which is what is needed to govern, but rather reactionary by nature. After 30 years of Mubarak’s despotic rule Egyptians had had enough and took their frustrations to the streets. They were confronted by an army whose sole interest is remaining in power, no matter who the titular head of Egypt may be. That army owns upwards of 40% of Egypt’s gross domestic product, it is a money making franchise for some but it is also brutal and often times as lawless as the mob it faces.
Mursi and his supporters hitched their political aspirations to the mob and upon seizing power diplomatically changed the make-up of the army. It appeared the transition was smooth, but obviously it wasn’t because one year later the opposition’s mob used the same military to takeover power from Mursi in what could only be described as a banana republic like act of political gamesmanship. One can expect that the same thing could happen again after whatever period of time passes. Even in the face of a Constitution, mob rule can negate at will laws and systems merely by taking to the streets and asking the military to join with it and if the population is used to, acquiesces to such displays of opposition the “when” just becomes a matter of time.
Trying to chart change by any yardstick to ANY party in power after a period of one year is inherently an exercise in futility. Using western models of political success for a government taking over the reins from a 30 year dictatorship is immature at best, doomed to failure at worse and so it (the Morsi government) was. Articles appeared which sought to chart Morsi’s success after the first 100 days in office as if he possessed a magic wand that could change everything wrong with Egypt so shortly after Mubarak’s regime. Mursi was even given a report card that detailed what he did and did not do, as if he alone was the catalyst for change among a nation mired in neglect and overwhelming collapse. When the obvious happened, i.e. he could not produce for Egypt what it was promised after one year, the mob took to the streets and exclaimed it was only doing what was necessary to protect the country. One tweeter eloquently said, ‘You can call Egypt’s opposition groups many things, but not “liberal” — liberals don’t support military coups. Emerging secular extremism’….. a rather scary foreboding of what’s to come, perhaps. Sadly, the same could have applied to Mursi’s climb to power a year ago, with the help of the same military.
Egypt therefore joins the ranks of those countries in the Arab spring that have not yet reached their zenith and are still societies of chaos and strife. Palestine, Syria, Iraq, perennially Lebanon are all embroiled in some sort of prolonged armed struggle which has disrupted the lives of its citizens and now Egypt can be added to the list. Also, it’s interesting to note all of these countries are contiguous to or neighbors of Israel which profits militarily and economically from the instability of her neighbors by increased American largesse. There are still other countries on the periphery with unrest, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, which mars social cohesion and prosperity and endangers peace. Moreover, indefinite instability is never good for any country, and the fact that Egyptians so quickly embraced it is almost suicidal for its hopes of an upturn in the economy, but they’ve gone down that road and there’s no turning back.
What is equally troubling is too many in the West seem to encourage Egyptians to use yardsticks that are wholly inappropriate for what it is Egypt is facing. What democracy can expect a 180 degree turn in the political direction of a country of 82.5 million people in anything less than decades? How can it be that a society as old as Egypt, centuries old some would say extending to the very beginning of mankind, should expect a political reconstruction in anything less than years and why is it that people with internal clocks that date to the Pharaohs feel the need to be in such a hurry? It almost seems as if it’s against their nature. The usual course of affairs in democracies is ineffective leaders are voted out of office, not run out as was the case with Mursi. Why anyone from a western styled democracy would suggest anything other than that for Egyptians is suspicious. Democracies are big ships with many different captains at the helm who must all work in sync with one another. When brought together for the first time, the cooperation needed to successfully guide the ship of state takes time..years, not months. Almost six years after the waning days of the Bush Administration, America is still trying to recover from merely 8 years of unbridled spending and rampant military adventurism which pales in comparison to 30 years of Mubarak’s rule. Do Egyptians think they possess some other other worldly recuperative powers that can rebuild their country so quickly?
Hardly. Let us hope the disease for the change of power at the hands of mobs is quickly replaced in Egypt with true representative government that’s instituted not at the threat of a gun barrel but by participatory democracy. This must be the goal and the means to be employed by all concerned, those in power today and those who oppose them.
- Mursi Ouster Hastened by Failure to Grow Egypt’s Economy (bloomberg.com)
- A long two years: key moments in Egyptian uprising and unrest (dailystar.com.lb)
- Egypt erupts into chaos after coup (smh.com.au)