THE BLOG

Ouster of Elected Egyptian President Is a Hammer Blow to Arab Democracy

04/07/2013 15:25 BST | Updated 03/09/2013 10:12 BST
AP

The Arab world should bemoan and the western democratic world should condemn the ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. This is not about an individual, but about the institution he was elected to represent in the most populous Arab country. Pro-Mubarak Generals, supported by short-sighted opposition, have now plunged the country into chaos. As an arbiter of power in Egypt, instead of defending democracy, the Generals decided to gag it by siding against the elected President.

Generals in one nearby country, Algeria, did the same just over 20 years ago; they cancelled the election that was going to bring the Islamic group to power. It was too much for the Algerian Generals, supported by France, to stomach and they turned their gun on the people's choice. This resulted in death and destruction by violent extremists, only to be matched by the military. Dark politics robbed Algeria of its opportunity to democratise itself.

As an historic nation, Egypt matters more to the Arab and Muslim world. The implication of yesterday's dangerous move by Egyptian military could be dire. No sane person would want Egypt to return to its dark days.

Morsi became President just a year ago without knowing his newfound power. But Egypt's military and judiciary blocked his attempts to manoeuvre. The challenges that he faced were political, economic and social; they were enormous and complex. The military establishment that had massive political power with 40% of the national budget at its disposal cared less about the dire economic situation that had already put the Egyptian people's backs to the wall.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) deprived Morsi of 'power over budgets, internal affairs or the Army' since his election; many observers called it a constitutional coup d'etat by the military. Out of desperation, or more likely, political naivety, Morsi decided to exert his Presidential authority last year by pushing aside the gatekeepers of the old regime. This, of course, angered his opposition and further polarised the political division.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), the rag tag coalition of the country's fractious secular groups and Mubarak supporters, then started violent agitation across the country; anti-Morsi demonstrations were marred by violence; some of Brotherhood offices were burnt down. Morsi appeared to be looking for some sort of reconciliation, but he was rejected outright by the opposition. Mohamed ElBaradei, much loved in the West even after losing miserably in last year's Presidential contest, called Morsi a 'new Pharaoh'. Such was the dislike for 'Islamist' President by the Secular politicians.

It is too early to say what consequences of yesterday's coup in Egypt will bring to the Arab and Muslim world and how that will impact on global peace. But 3rd 2013 July would remain a dark day.

Successive Egyptian military rulers arrested, tortured, killed, imprisoned and exiled thousands of Islamic activists, many from the Muslim Brotherhood. Some turn into violent extremists within the prison cells. Brotherhood, the mother movement of conservative religio-political activism in the Arab world, passed through different phases. But gradually they adopted the democratic route, albeit different from any western model. This was seen as a very positive move by many in the world, including mainstream Muslim activists across the world. Morsi's election victory last year was seen as a triumph of peaceful democratisation over violent extremism. But this is now in tatters.

Morsi and his party of course made many mistakes, but they were expanded by hostile media in Egypt and abroad. He should not have underestimated military's hatred for Brotherhood. He should have spent most of his energy on sorting out the failing economy that he inherited - creating jobs, reducing unemployment, improving foreign investment, keeping the tourist industry going, addressing the fuel shortage, etc. But, his political naivety, inexperience and occasional over-confidence were ruthlessly used against him. The Egyptian opposition may now be unwisely gloating over his removal from office, but the coming reality may hit them hard.

After decades of mismanagement, ineptitude, corruption, political violence and slavish foreign policy, the 'Arab Spring' ushered a ray of hope in the Middle East. But once again it is now entering into another uncharted future. Syria is brutalised by proxy war; the human rights situation has plummeted in the Gulf countries; other countries are struggling to cope; and now the most populous Egypt has given into another phase of political experiment by its military.

We can only hope and pray that Egypt rises up from this colossal challenge.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is former Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10) and was a non-Executive member of the LOCOG Board. He is an educationalist, writer and freelance parenting consultant. Follow him on Twitter @MAbdulBari

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.