When performing an analysis of the recent coup in Egypt, it is important to revisit how we arrived at this point. A single election does not make a democracy: while Morsi was elected in a democratic fashion, his statements – specifically those concerning the budding Egyptian democracy – and his actions often stood at odds with each other. In fact, it is not a stretch to suppose Morsi had every intention of building an ideologically driven regime that would transform Egypt into a hardline Islamic fundamentalist country. In other words, this would have made Egypt into the kind of nation with little room for the type of democracy the West seeks to promote – remember, Iran holds elections for a president and parliamentary body as well.
Upon examining President Mohamed Morsi’s actions since his election on June 30th, 2012, it is not hard to understand why the opposition doubted Morsi’s democratic fervor from the beginning. Indeed, one merely has to examine the values of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to feel queasy about the intentions of the newly elected president. However, for the purposes of this article, the focus will remain on Morsi’s actions leading up to his removal only one year later.
Morsi’s largest transgression, the most easily identifiable action that spoke to his true intentions, was an authoritarian decree granting himself virtually unlimited powers on November 22, 2012. He specifically made the constitution writing process immune to any form of judicial oversight. Morsi’s power grab hinged on two important events: the Israeli-Palestenian ceasefire and the secular withdrawal from the assembly drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
If you recall, Morsi successfully negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine exactly one day before his power grab. HuffPo breathlessly reported that Morsi was now a major player, and gushed over his ability to handle the situation fairly due to his close ties with Hamas. Pundits of like mind – the kind that view close ties with Hamas as either a non-factor or a bonus – pointed to Morsi as an example of the moderate legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood. Diplomatically, Morsi signaled to America that he was willing to play ball, and earned a chunk of American diplomatic capital.
However, with all the subtlety of a college student who suddenly falls sick on the day of the big test, Morsi turned around and spent all his diplomatic capital the very next day. On November, 22, 2012, Morsi issued a decree stating that until a new constitution was agreed upon, “the constitutional declarations, decisions and laws issued by the president are final and not subject to appeal.” Only two days prior to this dictatorial decree, two dozen secularist members of the constitutional assembly walked out in protest of the current draft of Egypt’s constitution because the Muslim Brotherhood (more or less) changed the constitution to dictate that all legislation had to abide by the rulings of Sharia law.
As of November 19th, 2012, Morsi was using a democratic vehicle to attempt to steer the country towards a destination similar to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and was met with democratic resistance by ideological opponents. As of November 22, 2012, Morsi boldly granted himself unquestionable power in order to quickly push his radical constitution into law, and in the process he abandoned all pretense of democracy. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s State Department played the role of the teacher who unquestioningly schedules the retest for the “sick” student and remained silent amid fervent protests by pro-Christian, pro-women, and pro-democracy supporters.
Emboldened and determined, Morsi signed the anti-women, anti-Christian, anti-democracy constitution into law on December 26th, and with a call for “stability”, Morsi began to crack down on political dissidents. In January, mass protests erupted on the anniversary of Mubarak’s ousting that resulted in the death of four protesters, one security force and left 280 civilians injured. In February, police were caught on video dragging and beating a naked opposition protester. In March, popular TV satire host Bassem Youssef (think Egyptian Jon Stewart) was arrested for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi.
When given a second look, one can see these are only a few examples from the long list of skirmishes, police crackdowns, and protestor deaths that continued to pile up month after month until the moment of Morsi’s ousting. Furthermore, throughout this time period and into the last days of Morsi’s regime, Egyptians experienced increased Islamic violence in the areas close to Hamas and Palestine. Given Morsi’s close ties to Hamas, many Egyptians did not view this as a coincidence. On June 26th Morsi gave what was supposed to be a speech of unity, but instead gave a speech that contained threats to political enemies, a manipulation of facts, and only strengthened the opposition’s resolve to throw Morsi out of office.
These are the facts and events that have led to the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. When digesting what has happened in Egypt, and when pontificating on where Egypt is headed it is all too easy to forget how it has arrived at this juncture in history. It is easy to recall Mubarak’s ousting, Morsi’s election, and now Morsi’s ousting, but it is impossible to glean a proper opinion based upon these events alone. With this new perspective we can now draw informed conclusions.
First, it is evident that though he was elected in a democratic fashion, Morsi had no intention of setting up a legitimate inclusive democracy; therefore, the opposition acted justly by removing Morsi from power. From his invasive power grab to the continued authoritarian style of rule following the constitutional referendum, Morsi’s end goal was to set up a theocracy-democracy akin to Iran’s “republic” that would last decades.
Second, the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton’s State Department proved itself once again completely incompetent in the arena of Middle Eastern foreign diplomacy – although, to be fair, Secretary Clinton was busy covering up another failure at the time. The Obama Administration failed to influence the Egyptian elections in any meaningful way – even with the leverage accrued via its legitimizing Egypt’s transition of power and the yearly bestowal of $1.5b in financial aid – and allowed a formerly jailed leader of The Muslim Brotherhood to gain a majority and be elected president. Consequently, when Morsi helped negotiate a truce between Israel and Palestine, the Obama Administration were able to point at Morsi and proclaim their ideological success even though it is reasonable to conclude they hardly knew Mubarak’s replacement would willingly fill the role of mediator.
See how moderate the Muslim Brotherhood is? See how the Islamic President Morsi can do the same job as Mubarak? We knew this would happen because we are open minded and inclusive!
Don’t mind the dictatorial grab for power the very next day – a move that made it abundantly clear Morsi was using American good will to leverage a more permanent power structure and aid Palestine and Hamas down the road – because that doesn’t fit into the narrative of Obama’s foreign policy. Disregard the virtues of democracy the State Department purported during the Egyptian protests that ousted Mubarak and landed America with Morsi in the first place. Morsi gambled that Hillary Clinton’s State Department would trade the potential solidification of a pro-Palestinian Egypt for the quick fix truce that proved politically expedient to the Obama Administration.
Disturbingly, Morsi gambled correctly, and it seems the only thing he didn’t count on was a movement of Egypt’s own citizens powerful enough to remove him from office. Thank God the opposition in Egypt, including the minorities of Christians and women, stood up and fought for their democratic God given rights because the Obama Administration was well on its way to letting Morsi create Iran 2.0: Version Sunni.
Taylor Smith | Belmont | @taylorsmith11_5