Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Wednesday,22 November, 2017
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

How we got to 30 June

The intransigence and incompetence of the Muslim Brotherhood are evident, but their failure is also the failure of all — one it will be costly to correct, writes Amr El-Shobaki

Al-Ahram Weekly

It took a long time for opposition forces and a vast segment of the Egyptian public to reach the point of calling for the president to step down in order to make way for early presidential elections. In some quarters, this demand has been escalated to the call for the president to “leave”, regardless of accepted democratic mechanisms.

Some might imagine that it came naturally or easily for a large portion of the Egyptian people to reach this stage. They might also think that ousting the president would not have untold negative consequences, apart from being a huge sign of the failure of all political forces, both in the government and the opposition, as well as the inevitable outcome of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) gross mishandling of the post-revolutionary interim phase.

While toppling the president could be achieved with relative ease during the Mubarak era, due to the particular circumstances that prevailed at the time, this does not mean that the experience cannot be repeated under new and different circumstances. However, the repetition will ultimately constitute a major setback in the reconstruction of our economically strained, professionally worn and politically fraught country at a time, moreover, when it has barely taken its first steps on the ladder of democratic transformation.

It is not just the revolutionary youth who are calling Morsi’s ouster. They have been joined by vast numbers of ordinary people who are sick of hearing about Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from which he hails. But one wonders how aware they are of the risks involved. After all, the issue this time is not about toppling a president, but about toppling a president who was democratically elected by around 13 million people (regardless of how many regretted their vote later on). Unlike the case of Mubarak, Morsi’s failure is the failure of us all, not just of his regime.

To some, the aim of ousting Morsi on 30 June is non-negotiable. They have already set their eyes on post-Morsi scenarios, such as handing the reins of government during the next interim phase to the chief of the Supreme Constitutional Court or to a civil presidential council. Such visions are more in the nature of very high hopes. All are contingent on innumerable factors on the ground, not least of which are the scope of popular participation and the stance of the army with respect to the president and his group, on the one hand, and the protesters and their supporters, on the other. In other words, all depends on the nature and dynamics of the anticipated confrontation between the two camps.

As for the more democratic option of holding snap presidential elections, which enjoys widespread support, it was inspired by the Muslim Brothers’ gross incompetence in administering the affairs of the country and, equally if not more importantly, by their exclusionist approach to both their adversaries and allies.

In spite of the unmitigated failure of the Morsi government, the readiness with which so many people approved the idea of toppling an elected president without appreciating its potential dangers for democratic transition is worrisome. Even if there is widespread disappointment and despair in Muslim Brotherhood rule and in their ability to offer real concessions in the form of some significant change in a cabinet, the dismissal of a public prosecutor widely perceived as biased, and the creation of a committee to draft a raft of amendments to highly controversial constitutional articles, the alternative must respect the democratic process. Alternatives that fit this criterion range from the minimum demand for the dismissal of the current cabinet and its replacement by a government of technocrats and independents, and the appointment of a new pubic prosecutor and new non-politically aligned governors to the demand for early presidential elections (as opposed to the demand to overthrow the president outside of the framework of peaceful democratic mechanisms).

The opposition attempted to press the minimal demands for six months. The Muslim Brotherhood’s response has been to appoint more Muslim Brotherhood ministers and to persist in its policy of exclusion. Consider too the fact that even under the Muslim Brotherhood-drafted constitution, any appointed cabinet must obtain parliamentary approval. In the absence of a parliament what gave Morsi and his group the political and moral right to handpick a Muslim Brotherhood government?

It was out of total frustration at the intransigence of the Muslim Brotherhood over the preceding months that a broad swathe of youth movements and secularist parties and coalitions notched up their demands to the call for Morsi’s ouster. It was the Muslim Brothers’ continued arrogant and provocative exclusivism that drove them to link the drive to sustain the revolution with the refusal to compromise on the ultimate demand, namely the “fall of the regime”, without regard for their ability (or possible lack of ability) to participate in formulating the “post-Muslim Brotherhood rule” alternative.

The question of whether the president goes or stays will ultimately be settled by the extent of popular participation in the forthcoming demonstrations on 30 June. Nevertheless, “regime change” will not be without a huge cost, not just in terms of casualties and material damage, but also in terms of the foundering of our attempts to build a new democratic order. Toppling Morsi outside of democratic processes will not make the Muslim Brotherhood go away. In fact, it will give them license to topple any other president who hails from outside their ranks while propelling the country towards the conditions of a failed state.

On the other hand, the 30 June protests could be considered successful if they force the ruling Muslim Brotherhood to dismiss the current government and select a new one consisting entirely of professionals unaffiliated with any political party. This would deliver a debilitating blow to the Muslim Brotherhood’s project of self-empowerment while keeping the country on the democratic course, which could lead us to early presidential elections, which is, in fact, a just and democratic demand.

The question remains as to what brought us to this threshold of massive failure? How did Morsi, in the space of a single year, drive millions of people to the point of demanding snap elections in spite of all the inherent risks and dangers?

There are three chief factors that have inspired the calls for new presidential elections or the restart of the post-revolutionary political process. The first is the faulty foundations on which the post-revolutionary political order is built. These foundations are so warped and uneven that it is evident that every storey built on top of them will be riddled with dangerous cracks that no amount of patchwork can repair. It seems wiser to begin afresh while we are still at the first stage, rather than yielding to stubborn pride and proceeding to build more floors that will inevitably crash down on us one day, wreaking incalculable damage. Unfortunately, the president and his clique refuse to go further than to contemplate the décor of the first floor as they remain obdurately insensitive to the fact that they have pushed through a constitution that a vast segment of the Egyptian people feels excludes them.

The second factor has to do with a group that insists on running the nation while continuing to act as a law unto itself. The Muslim Brotherhood behaves as though it is has been divinely selected, and as though this has placed it above the laws that govern community associations and NGOs and given it license to rule in the interests of its own advancement rather than the advancement of the nation. Rigid organisational bonds and zealous religious indoctrination have instilled in Muslim Brotherhood members an overbearing sense of superiority. While strong codes of mutual loyalty and religious zealotry may have worked to preserve their cohesion at the time when the Muslim Brotherhood was in the opposition, now that they are in power their sense of exclusivity has fed their hatred and antagonism against all political rivals and opponents, their arrogance in the exercise of power, and their insularism and isolation from the rest of society.

The third factor, which has become increasingly evident over the past year, is the enormous difference between running a society of the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood and running a country. The first requires a heavy cloak of secrecy; the second requires clarity and transparency. These latter qualities have eluded the Muslim Brothers who appear bent on avenging themselves against the state and settling old scores with its institutions. Over the past year, the Egyptian people have watched as the Muslim Brothers backtracked on all their promises, failed to live up to their commitments on reconstruction and reform, and persisted in sustaining an incompetent government that was forced on the people in the absence of a parliament to approve it or any other types of constitutional checks.

A huge segment of public opinion has come to feel that the Muslim Brotherhood is in the process of establishing a state for itself rather than a state for the Egyptian people. The people reject this. Our current dilemma is that this massive discontent has not sunk home with the Muslim Brothers whose sole reaction has been to imagine conspiracies from at home and abroad, without once considering that they may be at fault because of their single-minded drive to monopolise power, to the exclusion of all others, during a transitional phase in which they wrote the early demise of their own project.

 

The writer is a political analyst in Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies and a former MP.

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