It’s like déjà vu all over again.  Thousands of Egyptians encamped in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to voice their dismay at a ruler.  However, unlike Mubarak, who they forced out last year, the Egyptian voting public elected known Islamist and current president, Muhammad Morsi.

That’s what makes this coup different than the other: a small but vocal minority ousted the choice of the majority.  Morsi carried 51.7 percent of the vote, and while some may now have “buyer’s remorse” and would not vote for him today as they did last year, that is not how republics work.  As Chief Justice Roberts reminded us last year when handing down the Affordable Care Act decision, ‘elections have consequences.’

Make no mistake about it, I am happy to see Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government gone.  Since he took power he has advanced theocracy in a once mainly secular country, mostly on the back of Egypt’s Coptic Christian population, who have fled the country en masse since Mubarak’s ouster, and was a threat to the tenuous peace with Israel.  While I am happy to see him gone, and hopeful that Egypt will again be a nation of secular laws that protects its diverse population and its neighbors, the method in which it has begun to do so is worrisome.  We slip into moral relativism when we allow the ends to justify the means.

In a republic, the military cannot decide when an elected leader, whether a president, judge or legislator, no longer represents the people who elected him.  When that happens it is no longer a republic. Even if it has all the trappings of a republic, it is no more than a junta wearing a republican mask.

Morsi’s removal by the military furthers the precedent established by Mubarak’s resignation, of the military being able to approve or deny the policy of the civilian government it serves.

Additionally, another precedent was furthered in that a small group of dissidents can force out a fairly elected leader.  Granted, the crowds in Tahrir Square, Alexandria and everywhere else there are cameras look huge; however, Egypt is a country of more than 85 million people, and most importantly a country that elected its leader little more than a year ago.

Whoever takes over for Morsi will not be favored by all 85 million Egyptians. That’s the rub with elections: your guy does not always win.  If the opponents of the next leader take to the streets another time, does that mean that the new leader will be replaced too?  Imagine the chaos that would ensue if, when every time masses of people took to the streets, leaders would be replaced.  This is only compounded by the ability of the military to, by decree, declare leaders’ terms as completed.

Imagine if that were the case in the United States.  Sure, President Obama would be gone after a few Tea Party rallies, but what about the effects of a government displaced by the likes of Occupy Wall Street?  There has to be a balance of stability and the ability to change course. That is why we have periodic elections.

The results of this now annual occurrence in Egypt is little more than citizens dejected by republicanism: once the jubilance of taking to the streets wears off, elected leaders are placed in and removed from office based on the whims of protesters or generals.  Granted, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt may now become a thing of the past, but how can we expect true representative democracy to flourish if this is their perception and implementation of one of the greatest exports of the west?


Kenneth Depew | University of St. Thomas (TX) | @DepewK