Military assault on Egyptian democracy

Michael Petrou on what Morsi’s ousting means for the country’s political future


(Hassan Ammar/AP)

Until this week it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for me to conceive of a situation in which I found myself siding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

I’m opposed to political Islam in general. And Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brother who — until he was ousted in a coup this afternoon — was president of Egypt, has done a disastrous job running the most important country in the Arab world. Security has deteriorated and the economy has collapsed. Religious minorities are threatened and killed. Free speech is restricted. In a telling incident, television satirist Bassem Youssef was jailed for insulting Morsi and showing contempt toward Islam.

All religions are fair game for mockery in a healthy democracy. And Morsi deserves to be insulted. He was a sad sack of a president. But he was the legitimately elected one. How he got to that place is remarkable.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the womb from which so many modern Islamist groups were born. Hamas in the Gaza Strip is an offshoot. In Egypt, it was blamed for assassinations and violent plots, and banned for decades.

And yet despite this history, it became more moderate and democratic. It rejected violence and accepted democracy. Following the revolution that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, it contested Egypt’s first free presidential election through a newly-formed political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, and won.

There are many Egyptians who believe all this was simply a tactic to achieve power, that once the Muslim Brotherhood achieved political dominance, it would never willingly relinquish it.

“How could he be committed to democracy?” Walid Kazziha, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo scoffed when I asked him about Morsi last fall.

“His making, his whole being, has been largely influenced by being a member of the Brotherhood. And being a member of the Brotherhood means that you will not accept atheists, you will not accept people who disagree with you on this fundamental question: Is your reference point going to be reason, or is it going to be faith?”

He might have been right. Certainly the enhanced powers Morsi gave himself last year suggest a man who isn’t interested in democratic checks and balances. Non-Islamist Egyptians felt that their views were scorned when Egypt’s new constitution was drawn up. They worried what their future might be in a Muslim Brotherhood-run Egypt.

For these reasons, and many others, those Egyptians protesting Morsi have every moral right to do so. I share their outrage and desire to see Egypt governed differently. Were I an Egyptian, I would be in Tahrir Square.

But I part company with those among them now rapturously cheering the military as it removes an elected president from power. Those backing this process owe it to their fellow citizens to ask and answer a few basic questions.

Who has greater authority than Mohamed Morsi, who received more than 50 per cent of the vote last year, to govern Egypt?

The answer is no one. Egyptian liberals and secularists and others opposed to political Islam did a lousy job organizing for the 2012 vote and got crushed. The vote was fair. Morsi, whether they like it or not, has a mandate.

What do you expect his supporters to do now that their democratically expressed will has been ignored?

I’m pretty sure they won’t go home quietly. But even if, after several weeks of bloody street clashes, a calm of sorts is restored, then what? The Muslim Brotherhood came in from the cold and accepted democratic politics. Now they’ll quite reasonably conclude this was a mistake and act accordingly. As Ed Husain points out, this lesson will reverberate across the region, where Egypt is seen as a test case for Islam’s compatibility with modern governance.

What prevents further coups, and why will they be any less legitimate than this one?

The number of people filling the streets of Egyptian cities is astounding. Will similarly large crowds legitimize overturning future election results? How many protesters, exactly, will it take? What if those demonstrating are Islamists? Or is the army’s support necessary? Why bother with elections at all if power is settled on the streets? This coup sets a dangerous precedent.

Last night I tweeted a message to Egyptians: “Sometimes democracy means living with your mistakes until the next scheduled election.” I took it down ten minutes later because I couldn’t stomach lecturing Egyptians, many of whom have suffered far more for democracy than me, on what democracy is about.

But the message was true. Morsi should go. Those who want to replace him need to get themselves elected — not installed in the presidential palace at gunpoint.


Military assault on Egyptian democracy

  1. Well said.

    • What a piece of nonsense this article was.
      Nothing well said about it.

      The situation in Egypt was not as simple as ‘he was democratically elected’. There was a lot of inconsistencies, a lot of magic ballots, and vote-stuffing, intimidation, etc. Once in power, Morsi was acting like a dictator in waiting. Replacing key people via short-cut processes, hunting dissidents, etc, etc.

      The author doesn’t have a clue and should perhaps, read a little more before writing such nonsense.

  2. Im sorry! but you dont have to live with your mistakes. You can fix it. When all of Egypt goes down to the street, then it is not a coup. This is the right of the people. Get it right!

    • How can you claim it is “all of egypt” while it is a clear electoral minority who have lost the elections, have for months tried to cripple the government and then called for a military take over, whatever are the motives they look to me like fascistic, sore and illegitimate losers who just killed democracy.

      • If it were such a minority then why is nearly the entire country celebrating?

        • Oh do you have stats about that? A majority voted for this president, do you think that they will celebrate with those denying their vote and will by taking over with a military coup?

          • A majority did NOT vote for Morsi. The election was split and some major shennanigans took place. Ironically the voted fraud was not to the same level as seen on Nov. 6, 2013 where several races were altered in this nation, but it was
            enough to change the result from El Baradei to Morsi.

            Once Morsi was in power, he acted like a petty dictator. He “rewrote” the Egyptian constitution. He crucified Christians on the presidential palace lawn— that should have been
            screamed on the front pages of every paper, but it was relegated to the back pages of newspapers. He let every public service go in the ashcan— one wonders where he funneled the money from that to. Every criticism was met with some kind of oppression. The cops went from chasing criminals under Mubarak to chasing dissenters under Morsi and that was not a role the police liked after enforcing laws for so many years.

            Egypt was well on its way to being like another Iran— one free election and then dictatorship. It’s a common pattern among Islamic nations, even one that had seen terrific modernization and education program the Shah pushed.

            Expect the same in Turkey. At some point the burden of Erdogan’s terrorist brand of government is going to become too much and the military will act to defend the people.

            Algeria had a similar circumstance. The military government wanted a free election, make some real reforms. A terrorist like Morsi was about to win the election and they canceled the election to avert a disaster.

            The sad fact is that, because the public of Egypt lacks civil virtue, lacks an internal rule of law that governs individual behavior, because their religion emphasizes evil, the best the Egyptians are going to get is a benevolent “president for life” like Mubarak was, where rights and freedoms both flourished, with Egyptians being able to do things undreamed of in most Islamic nations.

          • Oh. I see.

            When the election doesn’t go you way, you assume fraud must be the reason.


        • Al – it only looks like ‘the entire country’ is celebrating – because you are too lazy to bother trying to find an unbiased media outlet. Try visiting Al Jazeera where the pro-Morsi demonstrations are not censored.

          • How long was Morsi’s term? Why couldn’t they wait for another election?

          • You are right, what was I thinking? Al Jazeera is where I should be getting all my news, oh and this page of course. Maybe the Egyptians didn’t want to wait and see Morsi usurp the constitution again and make elections happen every 25 years. The remnants of the supreme court there have no power to stop the Muslim brotherhood from doing that. Morsi failed to even acknowledge the minorities of his country, it was only a matter of time.

      • country of 85 million. 33 million turn out to protest against the government. His visible supporters number around 100 thousand.

        we don’t even get that kind of turn out on election day.

        I’m not surprised people are saying the 100 thousand are more representative of the people than the 33 million

        Left wing activists here claim they speak for the majority if they can get a few hundred people out of Canada’s 34.5 million to show up.

        Lefties only count the people who agree with them.

        • Dude, why bring up ‘lefties’ at all? I’m probably a lefty by your measure and I think the military did the right thing. Don’t troll the discussion by turning this into a left/right Canadian political debate.

          • Yes – you are the idiot lefty supporting military takeover of those you don’t agree with – hence Mark’s point.

            You are total and complete hypocrite.

          • Considering the hysterics from the right when Mubarak fell, and then again when the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections, I’m not sure that’s a road you want to go down.

            But there’s nothing hypocritical about my position, at the start my position was the MB won, so they get a chance to govern in a democratic fashion. Well they had a chance, they made a huge power grab, a constitution that took rights away from women and minorities, lost the approval of most of the country, and showed zero concern about the massive protests.

            And it isn’t a military takeover, it’s the military forcing new elections. If it was a military takeover I’d have a big problem.

          • @aluchko (“it isn’t a military takeover”). So the rolling tanks were just ornamental then? More of a makeover than a takeover.

          • It would be a takeover if the military installed a general or a puppet as president (ie they took power). Instead they chose a guy who’s been head of their supreme court for 20 years.

            It would be a takeover if the military provided the initiative to remove him from power. Instead Egyptians launch the largest protest in history (supposedly 22 million people signed a petition for him to step down). The army told Morsi to respond to the protesters demands, a very reasonable demand which is exactly what a democratic president should do, or they’d remove him from power. Morsi ignored the absurdly massive public uprising and so the military removed him from power.

            Would you prefer the military left him in power to turn the country into an Islamic theocracy that the populace overwhelmingly did not want just because a year earlier they reluctantly elected him in a chaotic election? That’s quite the price to pay just to stand on principal.

          • They would not have had to put up with him forever (on ‘principal’ or principle) any more than principled Americans had to put up with George W. or we will have to put up forever with S.H. The whole point of democracy is that you can change your leaders–in a principled way. The result of this coup or revolution or whatever you want to call it is that Jihadists can now argue (plausibly argue) that democracy has nothing to offer them. They can argue that it is a bad faith, hypocritical process that can be reversed by rolling tanks at the drop of a hat. For now, the populace is rejoicing because Caliban has a new master (“high day! freedom! Freedom! Highday!”), but when tanks roll you can be sure that some kind of Taliban will be the new master.

          • Bush was still a part of the Democratic process, he and the Republicans had policies that they wanted to push through but didn’t because of public outcry and the ability of other politicians to push back. Basically when you have a mature and stable Democratic society you can and should step back and let things regulate themselves, when it’s the first go and the guy in charge might start a civil war in less then a year, then you might want to meddle.

            It’s definitely risky and might make things worse, or the Egyptians might make a different choice in the new elections and things will be a lot better. But leaving Morsi in charge looked very much like 3 more years of strict Islamist rule and destabilization in a country that really didn’t want it.

            btw, do you normally rhyme that much when writing?

          • Rhyme? It was an allusion to Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Or (if you are referring to principle/principal) a correction of your malapropism.

          • Well in the first post you rhymed makeover/takeover, and in the second Caliban/Taliban. As for the malapropism I blame that on being too lazy to proofread and the English language in general.

            Either way a couple nitpicks on your previous point, I don’t think the Jihadists ever had an interest in Democracy, the group you might worry about alienating is the Islamists who already have a tenuous relationship with Democracy based on principal clerics who insist that the constitution be based on Sharia law.

            As for “when tanks roll you can be sure that some kind of Taliban will be the new master” I think one factor here was the independence of the military. In both Egypt and Turkey the militaries are largely secular and see themselves as defenders of the stability of the state. One risk of 4 years of a power hungry Morsi who’s uninterested in compromise is he manages to take control of the military and remove the safety valve that keeps their new democracy a democracy. Elected or not he strikes me someone who wouldn’t step down if he had a choice and I think Egyptians were rightfully worried about that.

        • What are those 33 million/100 thousand numbers? Are you claiming that I am a lefty, err? Sorry but I didn’t get your comment, please do elaborate.

          • I do apologize as my comment was really 2 different comments that both got mashed into the one place i put it. I will elaborate a little.

            the 33 million and the 100 thousand are estimates of the numbers at the various rallies from BBC world news coverage of the rallies in Egypt.

            this is a 40% turnout of every man woman and child in Egypt to protest against Morsi’s government. Not just a percentage of eligible voters.

            given those numbers I find it hard to accept your statement that ” it is a clear electoral minority who have lost the elections, have for
            months tried to cripple the government and then called for a military
            take over”

            The leftie stuff was a poorly thought out example of relating this to Canada where a few dozen people will blockade a highway and claim that they are demonstrating a majority opinion when they get get not even a thousandth of a percent of the population to turn out to a rally.

            That wasn’t really in response to anything you said.

          • The alleged “BBC quote” of “33 million” seems completely bogus and coming from some twitter misinformation/propaganda, please provide me any link proving me wrong. The only sourced numbers I got were unofficial and coming from the all too partisan military, there only claiming of “millions”

            “”It is the biggest protest in Egypt’s history,” a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that “millions” of people were on the streets across the country.” (AFP)

            Actually that is possibly a plain example of psychological warfare and on purpose manipulation, and it could be interesting to find the whole truth about those magical, non-sourced yet propagandized 33 million figure.

            EDIT: I have another unofficial number from Reuters, again from a military source, and there of ‘only’ 14 million… So your 33 million number seems more than bogus and falsified.

            “A military source said as many as 14 million people in this nation of 84 million took part in Sunday’s demonstrations in sweltering heat. There” (Reuters)

          • i have no desire to “prove you wrong” you asked me to extrapolate and I did. If you don’t agree with me that’s really not a problem for me.

          • I am just telling you that those numbers are/look bogus and invite you to see that by yourself, I am just fact checking there, the only respectable news sourced figure I have found is over Reuters, coming from an anonymous military -so probably partisan- source and it is of “as many as 14 million”. :)

          • even if it’s only 14 million, it’s still a better ratio than a few dozen occupiers claiming to speak for 99%. i really believe the majority of Egyptians wanted the brotherhood out.

            i could be wrong I suppose. after all, a measly 14 million people isn’t everyone. If they had really wanted Morsi out they should have emptied the hospitals and nurseries and made sure everyone who felt that way showed up. clearly this is just the vocal minority.

          • No way man, you are not getting off that easy. Now you get on a plane right now and take an accurate count and let us all know. Unless you see it with your own eyes, or its a number you personally agree with, its an obvious falsification.

          • that’s 14 million in just ONE city. how many couldn’t make it to the city to protest. The guy lied to get into power and was destroying the constitution and murdering any opposition to stay in power. just another Saddam Husein in the making.

          • Using an example from our own corrupt system is hardly “trolling”.

      • I have to agree with Fahim. There’s more to being a democracy than getting elected and becoming dictator for X years. You have to listen to and cooperate with the opposition, you need to protect minorities, you need to keep your mandate after the election is over, you need to do a lot of things that Morsi wasn’t doing.

        I really don’t like the military stepping in but in this case I think it’s a good thing. It takes a while for a country to figure out democracy and build the institutions that make things work. A few iterations of the military stepping in and saying “nope, you’ve effed it up again, give someone else a turn” is probably better than “well you voted him in, maybe if you’re lucky there will still be a country to repair by the next election”.

  3. Democracy is also people taking to the streets to oust a government who works to tune out the people’s needs. Gee. USA could use a similar uprising….

    • Democracy is to recognize your defeat in fair elections and wait for the next while respecting the will of the people, not cripple the country for months then call for a military coup…

      • “…But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

      • Only when the defeat in fair elections leads to policies that one disagrees with, but which are still within the range of legitimate policies for a liberal democracy. When human rights are violated, or when minority groups are denied equal rights, then the government is acting in a criminal manner, and it doesn’t matter how many of the people support such behavior.

    • Unfortunately Obama and his Czars have been preparing for such an uprising.

    • So when the Islamists take to the streets in greater numbers – you will want Morsi back then?

  4. Obama’s plant for “promoting democracy” in the Mid East… got kicked out by his own people. After all this, a once-prosperous nation now lies in ruin, a victim of the West’s greed for oil and control of power in the Mid East.

    • The greed for oil is a terrible influence, but let’s remember that there has been no peace in the entire region for a long time before Henry Ford got the wheel rolling.
      Few would argue that if you found the replacement for fossil fuel today that there’d still be the same level of warlike activity in the Middle East long after you died rich n famous.

  5. Maybe, just maybe, Democracy is a poor option for Egypt. Sometimes, you need an iron fist to prevent the factions in a country from overwhelming others. Heresy in the West, I know, but there are many places where this is true.

    • Our enormous investment in multiple layers of security and law enforcement/military agencies, along with the recent extinction of personal privacy here in the USA, “Land of the Free”, has purchased the average American a FIVE TIMES greater likelihood of winding up in prison.
      Now that’s an iron fist.

      • Now that we are privatizing our prisons, look for that to double.

    • It’s not that Democracy is a poor option, it’s that Democracy takes a while to establish. You need an environment where there’s strong political opposition to keep the current leaders in check, you need the idea that the leader represents the nation and not just their own party, and you need a strong government institutions that can push back against legislators. There’s no reason why Egypt can’t develop these things, but having an election and expecting a functional democracy to pop out is unlikely to work on the first go.

      • Not really. What you need is a tacit agreement from all factions that trying to deprive the other factions of power is not a good thing. This is why generally speaking Democracy worked well in the USA at first becaude the government was non intrusive enough that even if a faction did not like another, government could not do much to oppress that faction. BUt in a world where we want govt to do everything, oppression is easy.

        • There’s too much population density and infrastructure for a government that small to work today (you could try but it would be an anarchist experiment), also the early US had fewer and less severe internal divisions.

          That being said you’re right about not attempting power grabs being a major test of legitimacy.

    • Yes. Democracy is bad when the people you don’t like actually win.

      Deep f*ing thoughts Mr. Locke, you’re such a genius

      • Nice ad hominem, Im sure it makes you lots of friends. Anyways, I dont like one political party in the US but when they win, they do not actively try to take away my rights because I dont like them. The Muslim Brotherhood was clearly doing this and needed ot be removed and thank the stars they were removed.

    • A very brave perspective Mr. Locke, and assuming the dictator protects minorities and has the country’s best interest in mind, I agree with the statement.

      • Typically, you have seen at the very least, some dictators cobble together coalitions pf the miniorities. For all the bad things Assad did, he certainly was not known for his relegious persecution fo christians, for example.

        • I realize its off topic to be comparing Assad, but he was a dictator that fit many of the qualities of the “iron fist” that held together such a state. Many people don’t know or want to forget that America used both Syria and Egypt for renditions of terrorism suspects for that very reason.

  6. Governments sometimes serve a term but often choose or are forced to give up power.
    Canada’s tendency to prorogue parliament and cease governing is an example.

    Time will tell but, while compelled by the military, this is not a military coup, the Generals are not taking power, a coalition has been placed in power and elections are promised for the future.

    Forming a coalition themselves was always a choice for the existing government but they refused.

  7. Is this an opinion page? Lets call a spade a spade

    • This comment was deleted.

      • Wow tough-guy, where were you when Morsi usurped the constitution? It’s that complete lack of respect for an opposing position that caused the uprising in the first place. Now go fix me a turkey pot pie!

  8. The way in which Mubarak was ousted looks very similar to this. If the ousting of Mubarak was a “win” for democracy, I don’t see how this isn’t. Besides, democracy simply means that the will of the people prevails. There’s no rule saying it can only occur once every election cycle. They tried to make him step down voluntarily, and he didn’t. I’m glad there is an army, who is remaining commendably neutral, and stepping in only to maintain public order. Otherwise, this situation could have deteriorated into a giant civil war, like in Syria. And besides, Morsi is a giant douchebag. Does it sound very democratic for him to say – “I will not step down (at the behest of the people) unless blood is spilled”. It sounds like dictatorial fascist talk to me. One douchebag down, many to go.

    • You are a joke. What about the majority that elected him. I hope that the next guy who wins, who will clearly be a secular puppet of the Western nations, wont even last 3 months before the 51% of people who elected Morsi force him to step down.

      Ignorant moron.

      • Please stay civil…

        Derek is obviously wrong, like the partisan people here down voting facts, this president (ex?) was democratically elected by a majority of the Egyptian people while the opposition and the military who toppled him weren’t.

      • The majority that elected him doesn’t want to give Coptic Christians full equality. So Egypt should have its independence taken away, and be returned to the status of a colony.

      • but DID the majority elect him, is the real question? from what I understand of the muslim brotherhood, people were forced to vote for them at the threat of death. kind of like what happens in Iran every election

  9. Hitler was elected too! How much better would this world be had a popular uprising removed him after one year? You seem to talk out both sides of your mouth!

    How much better off would Syria be if the military had stepped in and removed Asaad when it became clear that he did not have the popular mandate of the people?

    This was clearly a picture of a man in power refusing to act on the democratic principles upon which he was elected, and therefore, it was the right of the people to demand his removal from office which they did and which was done.
    I thank God the military acted before Egypt turned into another Syria.
    The fact that the Egyptian people themselves accomplished this and have now evicted the Muslim Brotherhood from power means there is hope for Egypt.

    • There is too many factual errors in your comment to correct it. Really. The Egyptian military junta ruled the decades old dictatorship which was ousted just a few months ago, they aren’t exactly part of any democratically viable solution, they are rather a huge part of the problem.

      • I am more than happy to correct your errors. In the last presidential election in Egypt, the Prime Minister appointed by Mubarak, a former leader in the military, Ahmed Shafik, garnered over 48% of the popular vote.

        • I might add, that by all indications, that percentage rate I mentioned has skyrocketed after just a few months of actually seeing what the Muslim Brotherhood had in store for the country! They clearly are the ones now who “aren’t exactly part of any democratically viable solution”.

        • Which error are you claiming to correct actually? I fail to see any.

          Edit: funny btw to see how my comments and your comments are up and down voted, is that this caricature of “Calif Namazifard” your latest imposture as a crazy jihadist? …

          • What is your problem, dude? Here’s how it works: you get to have democracy only if you choose correctly. If you choose incorrectly, then your democracy is removed, hopefully temporarily. (Either the true rulers (tenuously, the military, and therefore, The West) suspend democracy by kicking out the elected leader, or your elected leader (permanently) suspends democracy by changing the rules afterwards.)

            The desired ends is a decent life for ALL of Egypt’s citizens, and democratic elections are the means, not the ends, and definitely they are not some magical sacred cow which must be held above all else.

            Citizens who live a decent life are more productive, and therefore more lucrative. Democracy, where it is alleged to have existed, either vanished immediately or was subverted by the elites and perpetuated merely as an illusion.

            By the way, I am a genius and everything I said here is correct.

  10. I agree that it’s a shame this happened. I understand the points of the author.
    However when a guy gets the support of millions of protesters (who have had enough oppression and sacrifice) and pulls a Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde sleight of hand immediately upon election, those same people will revolt again.

    It appeared to be an intentional power grab to me and I’m an under-informed American with no stake in the game. Just how would I feel if I thought the new (obviously Republican) President was going to abuse me and my sisters by forcing the Sharia Law horrors upon us at the point of a bayonette?
    I sure as heck wouldn’t wait until the next election, which would be rigged, anyway.

    • Well it wasn’t exactly a power grab but rather a temporal way to circumvent a dictatorship appointed and hardly legitimate per se judiciary.

  11. ahh, where is western values for democracy. They have ruined muslim world whatever has left. look iraq, afghanistan, syria, lebanon. palestine, egypt, tunisia, iran and list go on. They sowed fight between shia and sunny, secular and fundamentalist. When they become too weak , actually already they are. then they will implant their pliant people, whether conservative like saudia, uae,qatar,kuwait and other gulf countries or secular . Great game is going on. just watch & enjoy.

    • it is your mullahs and imams who are sowing distrust between sunni and shiite, not the west.

  12. I appreciate and share Petrou’s caution, but not his sentiments. Egypt is in an unusual position, where all of its democratic institutions are still fragile; it’s not as if someone launched a coup in France because Hollande’s polls were low that week. As an institution, militaries in democratic republics have a difficult but legitimate role in defending constitutional government; that’s why we ask soldiers to swear oaths to uphold constitutional rights rather than to uphold elected governments (and why our Army’s oath is to the sovereign as the embodiment of the Constitution, not to the Prime Minister or the governing party).

    In a constitutional democracy, the preservation of rights and freedoms that sustain the ideal of a pluralistic debate must take precedence over the mandate given anyone in any particular election. Morsi doesn’t have a mandate to do whatever he wants, contrary to Petrou’s implications; he urinated on his mandate with his various abuses of power, and with his rough handling of redrafting the Constitution – no minor issue – to his faction’s exclusive benefit in late 2012.

    I’m not with those who assume the military’s intervention will lead to a just, positive or democratic outcome. On the contrary. It’s already led to some questionable arrests. It could very easy push to disturbing extremes, spark chaos, result in unnecessary loss of life. It could lead to permanent military rule.

    …but then, it might not.

    In contrast, one thing should already be certain to anyone with open eyes, and this should include Petrou: given the weakness of Egypt’s other institutions (courts, Parliament, media, etc.), had Morsi remained in office for a few months more without any *powerful* check on his actions, that would have led to the certainty of a broken democracy in a few years instead of the possibility of a vibrant one. Jury’s out on how democratic the military is willing to be, but the verdict should already be ‘enough’ on Morsi’s caudilloesque approach to “constitutional legitimacy.”

    • This is a military who have ruled a decades long dictatorship with a military junta and full western backing… I doubt that they have “swear oaths to uphold constitutional rights rather than to uphold elected governments”, moreover when you know their self-interested and corrupting grip over the overall Egyptian economy…

      • True. But it’s also a military that’s overthrown Mubarak not too long ago and allowed a democratic election to proceed to replace him. The world is full of bad options; it’s one thing to say “trusting the Army is a bad option” – which I understand! – but Petrou’s article implies that we should say “trusting Morsi until his term ran out was a better choice,” and that’s crazy.

        • Well they didn’t really overthrown him, they rather stopped supporting the boss of their junta once that the repression deaths soared, helped with a bit of US bankrolling coercion.

          • I think you’re quibbling, since what matters to events today is that once the Army’s authority was secured in 2011, it passed that authority on to civilian leadership after the election instead of simply delaying the election forever “in an emergency” as other armies have in similar situations. Also, note, cause for optimism: (although I think actions taken to limit press freedom stand as equal cause for pessimism).

  13. it’s not assault on Egyptian democracy . what happened is what ppl want . Egyptian and Proud .

    • Because you can speak for the majority? How kind from you.

  14. Micheal Petrou has some good points, but overall has confused an election as being the ultimate choice of the people, that the people then must live with.

    According to Petrou the Muslim Brotherhood, now that they are elected, will never give up power. Other than a coup, how are the people supposed to change their government when their government won’t give up power?

    Elections are more than just the result after the vote. For democracy to truly exist the political parties need to be committed to democratic principles and not run with the election as the goal and once elected govern to a different set of principles than what they ran on.

    Morsi does not deserve to govern and had to be removed.

    Now to see if the next election is genuine or not.

  15. There are some valid points here, and I share some of the concerns but (there’s always a but) it ignores the historical reality that follows every revolution. The reality is, after every revolution there is years of confusion, and the first government following the revolution is pretty quickly replaced itself. This was true of the french revolution, the russian revolution and the american revolution. The U.S. had no less than three armed rebellions before 1800 (Shays’ rebellion, The Whiskey rebellion and Fries’s rebellion) and the Articles of Confederation were pretty quickly scrapped and replaced with the current government. So are there concerns? yes. But this is entirely to be expected and assuming there’s no significant foreign influence (whether western or middle eastern) it will sort itself out.

  16. Michael Egypt is not Canada.

    Do you really believe that one election is going to create liberal western values in a nation of 100 Million people used to living millennia in monarchy’s or dictatorships? Democracy is not enacting a law, democracy is cultural. democracy takes time.

    It will take many false, economic, education and cultural reforms for democracy to take hold the way it has in the West.

    In the meantime, let the army step in and do what it has to to ensure the safety and rights of the broader population.

  17. Michael Egypt is not Canada.

    Do you really believe that one election is going to create liberal western values in a nation of 100 Million people used to living millennia in monarchy’s or dictatorships? Democracy is not enacting a law, democracy is cultural. democracy takes time.

    It will take many false starts, economic, education and cultural reforms for democracy to take hold the way it has in the West.

    In the meantime, let the army step in and do what it has to to ensure the safety and rights of the broader population.

  18. Democracy isn’t limited to elections. Particularly when the constitutional order doesn’t have an adequate escape valve (e.g. impeachment proceedings in the US), the constitutional order may need to be circumvented for the benefit of society, even if this may appear undemocratic. If the democratically elected leadership acts to subvert the very democratic order which empowered it this simply must be done (recall Hindenberg’s inaction in the face of Hitler’s election).

    More specifically, the coup is undemocratic because it contravenes the expressed will of the people as judged by last year’s election results (and presumably there is no evidence that more than 50% of the country opposes him today). But as we tend to forget in the US, democracy isn’t synonymous with liberal values – the tyranny of the majority and all that. The democratic process can go awry, it is not necessarily self-preserving, and in those instances extraordinary steps must be taken.

    Of course, this is merely a theoretical argument – did Morsi’s actions warrant his removal? That’s an empirical question.

  19. You are still lecturing Egyptians on democracy whether you tweet about it or not.

    Democracy is difficult to get right, and it is Western Christian idea, so we have no reason to believe Islam Egypt is going to perfect first time. People in tahrir sq are inspiring, they are showing civic pride and they are not being massacred by The State, important process in a developing democracy.

    The Egyptians are brave to be out in such large numbers and it is good that The State is mostly allowing the protests to occur because Egypt has been ruled by authoritarians for long time and dissent is not normal. People of Egypt are showing that Islam government has to accommodate others.

    • Is it the ‘state’ allowing the demonstrations, or the military refusing to quell them? I’m also not sure that democracy is a particularly Western Christian idea as much as that it happened to occur in areas that wanted to break from church domination of state and personal affairs.

      In any case I share your admiration of the Egyptian people to get out and demonstrate as it is the willingness of a states people to demonstrate against their government that is more of a base for democracy.

      • I think there is little doubt that modern, western democracies owe a great deal to Ancient Greece , to Christian (especially, but not exclusively Protestant) thought, to the Enlightenment and to several hundred years of practical experimentation. I’m not convinced that (In general) these democracies were founded on a wish to limit the power of religious institutions, though this has of course occurred.

        • seems to me that the ‘christian thought’ in the USA is doing all it can to deny the democratic rights of half its population just like the muslim brotherhood tried in Egypt

    • There was me thinking democracy was a Greek idea. Silly boy. I guess they were Christians before there were Christians eh!

  20. This is the bottom line as I see it: A national leader is only in his office because the majority of the people of that country chose to put him there to represent them. When he does not represent the majority of the people any longer, then he can (and should!) be removed by them.

    A government serves the people, not the other way around. So it is with Morsi. If he had been all that democratically minded, he should have immediately called for new elections instead of clinging to power.

    • Ok but when it is a minority of the people helped by a military junta?

      • Let me clarify – as I indicated, my stance is that Morsi should have held a new election to determine what the people wanted, not that he should have stepped down.

        Once that was done, then the outcome would dictate the next moves.

        • I wish Ontarians had the guts to pull this on Wynne.

          • yes and throw in Harper while you are at it

          • I’m not a fan of Harper (or his antics), but things are pretty OK right now. Comparing Harper or Wynne to Morsi is like apples to oranges.

      • I retuned from Cairo six days ago. In that city I met no one, rich or poor, Christian or Muslim, educated or illiterate, who had a good word to say about Morsi and his government.

        The anti-Morsi petition is supposed to have 22 million signatures (which I guess will have to independently verified one day) but the target was 15 million. This latter number was chosen because it was already significantly greater than the 12 million votes received by Morsi (his 52% BTW) in the election last year. I think that there is little doubt that Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood have lost significant support in the past 12 months, almost entirely due to Egypt’s economic situation (only partly Morsi’s fault). Early elections, national governments, and other measures might have saved Morsi’s administration had they been attempted earlier, but (probably) at this stage his removal by the army is the only acceptable outcome to a majority of Egyptians.

  21. This is far from over! To hell with democracy! The only will that matters is that of Allah (swt). The day will come when Egypt will be a true Islamic nation.

    • Are you for real? You sound like a no so subtle imposture, like coming from a Coptic Christian up-voting his other account comments.

    • now, see, that is exactly why the muslim brotherhood and morsi were removed. your religion denies human rights to women and non-muslims.

  22. Out of curiosity, does anyone know what the political situation in Nepal is like at the moment? Nepal went through decades of Civil War and when the monarch stepped down and it became a Republic, the previously repressed Marxist party (political wing of the rebellion) won the elections. They could not hold the coalition together and their government fell. I don’t know what is happening now, but it could potentially be a good model or, at least, a point of reference for Egypt. I really hope they maintain a democracy. In the short run this may favour Islamists, but in the long run, it will favour open and responsive parties.

  23. Just to comment on some of the comments, there is no credible evidence that “western” countries were behind the ousting of Morsi. I’d guess Obama and Co. are worried about the potential for further instability in a region they are desperately trying to leave. Obama worked to cultivate a relationship with Morsi and chose to convey legitimacy on the Muslim Brotherhood by meeting with their officials during his first trip as a President to the Middle East. I think many western government preferred the status quo to further unrest.

  24. It appears that Morsi wouldn’t move with his leftist dictatorial bent except at gunpoint. Nip it in the bud. They did.

  25. I find your analysis and views to be biased and unfounded on reality of present day conditions or understanding the near past. For us Egyptians – the vast majority of us- the MB was engaged in a process of building an authoritarian exclusionary system under he cloak of democracy. Their system of rule could be easily compared to Fascism who were also democratically elected btw.

  26. There is more to a democracy than just casting a ballot every X years. If an incompetent government opposes the will of the people, and is itself antidemocratic (as demonstrated by excluding minority groups), the people have every right to force the bums out. Or they should have that right.

  27. naive viewpoint. the fundamental islamists (MB) have not changed their stripes in centuries…just their words. the Egyptian people overthrew the moronic despotic anachronistic insane Brotherhood…what could be more democratic !
    The MB abused the privilege of being elected, and they dragged in one year a prosperous thriving Egypt into a financial and social abyss they may not get out of for decades.

    wake up to the reality…islamofascists have one agenda, regardless of how they use the word “democracy” in their speech. best news in a long time to come out of the mis-named Arab Spring. May all islamofascists suffer the same fate. Mubarek knew what he was doing to outlaw the MB. they are a cancer on society and offer nothing but violence and hate to the world.

  28. Democracy, Mob Rule indeed, has failed in Eqypt. Most free nations have a representative republic form of government or a representative democracy form of government.

    Democracy, that of he who has the most votes runs roughshod over everyone else, never works for long.

    It’s failed in Egypt.

    It’s failing in the U.S. with cities with their poorly-educated populations (fewer high school diplomas and college degrees per capita in cities vs. suburb and rural areas, unlike 50 years ago) running roughshod over the rest of their states. The typical situation is now for cities to use their massive voting base to get what they want and that usually means the rest of their states have to pay for the cities, and since cities produce little or nothing to pay for the water, fuel, food, and goods that the city wants, that runs up staggering debt.

    If that’s not enough, the large cities have used their uneducated voting blocs to push for economic suicide in the form of “green”, which means using far more resources and creating more pollution than the standard method, “sustainability” which means “let someone else produce what I need and I’ll just run up debts to pay for it”, and a bizarre unscientific desire to get rid of all energy production, regardless of what results. They push drug use (Oregon’s 1973-1997 experience with its carnage and a lost generation should have been a clue what happens with legalization), and all sorts of behaviors that damage people and the social fabric, and have an inability to realize cause and effect. A perfect example of the latter is Portland eliminating its truck farms, then people wondering where the local produce went.

    Mob rule without human virtue doesn’t work for very long. Even our cities are held together by a small minority of people who keep everything running and they eventually will give up in frustration, being hamstrung by fools who haven’t a clue what they are doing. Detroit is merely the first such city to ruin itself.

    Mob rule didn’t work with Morsi and his fellow terrorists and it won’t work here.

  29. not to be confused with the Liberal assault on democracy in Ontario, with proroguing, seat buying, and voter suppression.

    just saying…..

  30. I have to disagree with you. Morsi and his government brought this upon themselves. They were the ones to shun democracy first.

  31. People would do well to recall that Hitler came to power legitimately. While the idea of a military takeover might seem repulsive, it may prevent even more terrible things down the road.

    • perhaps Egypt’s military learned by Germany’s mistakes, and stepped in before the pogroms and concentration camps were set up

  32. Democratic elections are a contract between the elected leader and the people. The contract is void once the elected leader deviated from the terms of this contract. Morsi lied not once, or twice, but many times. Morsi imprisoned the young leaders of the January 25th Revolution. Morsi threatened the June 30th rebels with bloodshed. Morsi wrote the new constitution alone (which ironically backfired at him due to his and his aides ignorance of law). Morsi has violated many many more terms of the democratic contract he signed with the people.

    The fact that you M. Petrou have absolutely no understanding of the details, or that you or Macleans have some sort of biased agenda changes nothing.

    Congratulations to the Egyptians, the 33 million Egyptians who remained in the street for 3 days in extreme heat to free their country and gain it back. And many thanks to the military and police for this time choosing to side with the masses.

    • You’re kidding, right?

      Every politician breaks election promises. Are you saying we have the right to mob rule to throw them out?

      Next time try voting for the other guy. That’s democracy.

      • No I’m not kidding.
        Let’s put it in short and simple terms: If the president of your country didn’t fulfill ANY of his promises towards your country, but dragged to a new low (in pretty much everything, no power, no water, no gas, no freedom…) AND started imprisoning all his opponents (e.g. the youth who triggered the Jan 25th revolution and got Morsi into power in the first place) AND started going after the media AND bypassing the law and constitution (owning his own militia to make the law in the streets)…..(GASP FOR AIR)…what would you do with this president? Give him another 3 years to complete his term because he was elected democratically??

      • do you really think there would have been a next time?

  33. If only Canadians would get off their butts and go into the streets to protest the absurdity that our Canadian political system has become? People in Canada do not vote, because nothing changes, no matter who is in power. A taste of democracy has given the Egyptians “power” to demand perfection from all their leaders, something Canadians could learn.

    • oh, come on. at least Canadian governments don’t imprison and murder those who speak against them, nor do they deny human rights to women and minorities.

  34. This action by Egyptians has more than ever clarified why Western governments must find appropriate ways to extricate our countries from affairs in nations we do not and cannot understand. Their values, their expectations and their views of international law are extraordinarily far from our own. We have no right and little reason to involve ourselves in countries like Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and on the list goes.
    If we wish to trade with these countries.. fine.

    Do it according to basic trade responsibilities and law, but don’t anticipate we will be broadly respected or accepted for our standards outside the commercial field.

  35. ” Is your reference point going to be reason, or is it going to be faith?”

    This is the false dichotomy always presented by bigoted, narrow minded secularists who cannot grasp that faith and reason are usually mutually orthogonal.

    ‘Reason’ is what enables us to legally kill children while in the womb only 1 week before being born? Hearing, feeling, reacting, forming memories, having emotions – it is ‘reasonable’ to say that this entity which could survive outside the womb is not a life form.

    No. The intellectually secular camp are usually just bigots who disguise their hate in big words.

    • oh, there you go, denying women rights again. perhaps you should consider moving to Saudi Arabia where women have no rights

  36. I agree with you on this one. A military coup against a legitimately elected leader is not something that should be cheered. If you have an issue with a leader’s actions, protest those actions. If you want them out of office, organize and campaign to defeat him in the next scheduled election. But democracy cannot exist without the establishment of a stable political system.

    • there was not going to be a next scheduled election, once Morsi finished rewriting the constitution

  37. Your base assumption, that the MB were brought to power via a free and fair election, is demonstrably false. It just so happens that people like yourself in MSM have such a short memory.

    I wonder if you’d object to the military staging a coup in Iran?

  38. Any government that fails to respect human rights, including the rights of members of minority groups, has to have power taken away from it, by gunpoint if that is the only way that will work. A truly democratic Egypt would be one with a constitution that prevents discrimination, backed up by an independent Supreme Court. Then, if people elected Islamists to the government, they would find themselves blocked at every turn if they attempted to do anything wrong, and they would be the ones acting illegally if they resisted the courts.

  39. “Michael Petrou writes about international news ….” for MacLean’s. One would therefore assume that Michael Petrou is well versed in world history. Such does not seem to be the case.
    Michael, how long did it take for western democracies to become well established
    and stable: a couple of years? More like a couple of centuries for England and certainly one hundred years for France. How about Germany in 1933? In France between the French Revolution and the Third Republic, how many “coups”, how many regime changes legitimate or not, how many revolutions were there before stable democracy prevailed? Micheal please brush up on your world history; you will realize that what is happening in Egypt is not unusual for a young democracy. Egyptians – and the rest of the Arab world for that matter – are learning. It is a messy period for them; let’s hope that it will not take them a hundred years to achieve their goal.

  40. Interesting Topic..

  41. Do you think that Russia is a democratic country. It is a country run by members of e-KGB who took over the wealth of the country by selling it to e-KGB members after the collapse of The USSR. Russia is a democratic communist country with a communist parliament. There is no such thing as democratic Russia.

  42. The military will never give back their rights. Where do you find generals worth millions of dollars, not in a democratic country unless their parents where millionaire before. In Egypt, they controlled hotels, tourism and other companies.
    The Brotherhood get their money from Iran, Syria and Al-Qaeda. They are the Robin Hood of Egypt; they steel from the rich and give to the poor. By doing they buy the vote from the poor population of Egypt.

    • and they deny the rights of anyone who disagrees with their stance on anything.

  43. Are you seriously recommending that someone who gets “democratically” elected by fraudulent means should be tolerated until the next election, if that is ever to occur?
    When during his campaign did he even hint at the things he has done after being elected.

    I doubt that Egyptians are calling for change “once again.” I think that want more than just a change of tyrants.

  44. This article is uninformed. Democracy in Egypt both started and ended with
    last year’s election. The Morsi government knew how to use an election to get
    in power, but they don’t know how to respect or foster it.

    If the Conservative government in Canada used their ‘mandate’ to rewrite the
    Canadian Constituton to their liking, while excluding other parties and the
    provinces, and impose it everyone, would we accept this as part of their
    democratic mandate? That is what the Muslim Brotherhood has done in Egypt in the
    last year.

    If Canadian leaders freed brutal murderers for ideological reasons would we
    accept this as part of their ‘democratic’ mandate? See for example Morsi’s
    ‘pardon of brutal murderer Mostafa Hamza who was the mastermind behind the 1997
    terror attack on foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt where 62 people were brutally
    murdered. These people were raped, mutilated, shot in the face, etc., on
    Egyptian soil, and Mr. Morsi found it appropriate to release this butcher ‘ to
    send a message to the West”.

    If our leaders made the police chase down dissidents, leaving ordinary
    criminals in charge of the street would we call that democracy? see

    If the Canadian government ordered our police to stand by and watch while mobs
    attacked and murdered religious minorities, as has happened to the Copts under
    Morsi’s rule, would we defend its ‘democratic right’ to do so? see

    How about the Christian guy who went to jail for 2 years for ‘criticizing’ Mr.
    Is this part of the ‘democratic mandate’ of the Morsi government?

    Democracy REQUIRES respect for the rule of law, protection of religious and
    ethnic minorities and protection of freedom of speech, among other things. By
    these metrics, Mr. Morsi’s government was clearly not democratic. In fact Mr.
    Morsi was setting up Egypt for a one-party rule, a form of dictatorship. The
    coup carried out by the military may not be a shining example of democracy in
    action. But to call what they did as an attack on ‘democracy’ is to completely
    mischaracterise what has happened.

    I think Egyptians did not want Mr. Morsi to turn their country into a Sunni
    version of Iran. I applaud them. I hope the military will indeed turn over
    power to a civiian authority as promised. But only time will tell.

  45. You assume that the election is the most important part of a democratic government. That is, at best, debatable. An election, to quote that famous American satirist, is only a single democratic moment. History is littered with brutal, ignorant, incompetent thugs given a mandate thanks to a well organized election campaign. I don’t know if the coup was the right avenue for removing Morsi, by all accounts an irrational zealot, nonetheless he’s gone. And seemingly for the better. Rational people could all take a lesson from Egypt’s first election; the ignorant and the servile, also known as the faithful, have a real knack for organizing themselves. And to quote, once again, an American: your absence from the ballot doubles the power of some diehards vote.
    Otherwise, well written Mr. Petrou. Thank you very much for posting this and keep up the good work.

  46. To Mr Michael Petrou:

    Re: The “democratically elected” and “legitimacy” mantras:

    Let me put it to you this way: I rented a house from you and we signed a 4 year (rental) contract. By the first year, I start changing the house to my liking, which is for you, the owner, wrecking it. Would you be ask me to return the key or you would wait until the end of the “contract”, when you will hardly recognize your house and might have trouble distinguishing it from a derelict (crack-) house (Egypt vs Afghanistan under the Taliban) ?
    Do you know that Islamists do not recognize “man made” laws and principles ? That they do not believe in democracy ? That (in Tunisia and in Egypt and elsewhere), they hypocritically “bent” their beliefs during elections just to get hold on power, spread their tentacles into all state apparutus and then “good bye heretic westerners’ concept called democracy”?