Unpropitious


As expected, there’s fighting in Cairo. The Islamists were never going to shrug and say ok, were they.

Tensions in Cairo escalated after Egyptian troops opened fire on crowds that had gathered outside the Republican Guard headquarters, where Mr Morsi is believed to be held.

Three people were killed and dozens more wounded, including the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen whose head was grazed by shotgun pellets.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood – to whom Mr Morsi belongs – had massed outside Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque throughout the day.

By evening, the crowd had filled nearby streets and the Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, told the crowd: “We shall stay in the squares until we bring President Morsi back to power.”

It was never going to work – a democratic election that elected people who reject democracy and elections. It’s the terrible flaw that democracy has: it works only as long as everyone plays by the rules. When everyone doesn’t, it becomes a choice between the military and some other kind of brute force.

Jeremy Bowen explains the obvious for us.

This country’s citizens tend to respect, even venerate, the armed forces. But its intervention in politics, and its removal of President Morsi, has alienated a big section of the community.

Two Egypts exist side-by-side.

One is made of men and women, supporters of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are as angry as Mohammed Ramadan. They are furious that what they see as the democratic will of the people has been flouted, and they are in no mood to accept meekly what has been done to them.

Men “and women”…I doubt that part. I doubt that many women are included in that angry group. It’s just a form of words.

For all the talk of rebooting Egypt’s political system, the fact is that its experiment with democracy has failed dismally.

The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, together the biggest political and social movement in the country, have been rounded up and locked away in a way that happened often in the years before 2011.

The army’s intervention does not of itself do anything to tackle Egypt’s huge economic problems. The country is deeply divided.

It is not a good beginning for a new era.

No, it’s not, but neither was the election of the MB (and the Salafis). That was already a massive failure of Egypt’s experiment with democracy.

 

Comments

  1. aziraphale says

    Electing a political party based on a religion does not necessarily mean a failure of democracy. The Christian Democrats were the major party in Germany for decades after WWII. Christian Democrat and Christian Socialist parties have been part of governing coalitions is several European countries.

  2. says

    Nobody said electing a political party based on a religion does necessarily means a failure of democracy; the problem occurs when you’re dealing with any political party that believes in “one man, one vote, one time only.”

    I also have to disagree with Bowen’s assessment that “Egypt’s experiment with democracy has failed dismally.” It’s stumbled at the first hurdle, certainly, but then again, which country hasn’t? In most western countries, decades passed between the adoption of constitutions and universal suffrage; you can’t definitively relegate Egypt’s attempt to the scrapheap because it didn’t work perfectly the first time.

  3. AsqJames says

    Men “and women”…I doubt that part.

    Sadly I think you may be mistaken there. How it happens and why it happens is a mystery to me, but there are plenty of women around the world who support anti-women theocrats (of whatever variety) and their anti-women policies.

  4. atheist says

    You say Morsi’s election was “a failure of democracy”. I don’t understand this view — Morsi’s election was the expression of the views of a plurality of Egyptian voters in June 2012. I may not have liked his policies, or his attempts to insulate the office of the presidency from judicial review, but he was elected fair and square. As other commenters are pointing out, there is nothing inherently contradictory about a public electing a theocratic leader.

  5. says

    Years ago Karl Popper argued that it was legitimate for a supporter of democracy to help overthrow a democratically elected government when that government no longer supported democracy. I think it was the experience of seeing Hitler democratically elected that made him come to this conclusion. The German electorate didn’t make the same mistake twice and hopefully the Egyptian electorate won’t either.

  6. says

    A failure of democracy in the sense that the MB is Islamist and Islamism is anti-democratic. It’s self-undermining.

    Asq, I know, but Bowen’s phrasing reads as if women were as directly involved as men, or at least in the same general ballpark, but since the whole point of Islamism is to make sure women are never involved in anything outside their own kitchens, that seems unlikely.

  7. Matt Penfold says

    There was a failure of democracy in Egypt, and not the just the one Ophelia outlined.

    In any democracy there needs to a system of checks and balances. If you have a President then you need some means of holding the President to account, and to stop them from simply becoming an elected dictator. This is normally done through a Parliament that is fairly elected, and had sufficient members that it at least broadly represents the political make up of the electorate. This did not exist in Egypt (because the elections were rules unlawful), so Morsi had more power and was less accountable that was good for anyone.

  8. sailor1031 says

    “The German electorate didn’t make the same mistake twice and hopefully the Egyptian electorate won’t either.

    The german electorate didn’t elect Hitler the first time and wasn’t given an opportunity to elect Hitler a second time.
    Hitler lost the 1932 presidential election which was won by Hindenburg. At the instigaton of Von Papen and other wealthy politicians and businessmen – then as now ready to trade freedom for security – Hindenburg appointed Hitler as Reichskanzler. Parliamentary elections were held in March 1933 at which the NSDAP won a plurality but not a majority, forcing them to govern through a coalition. After the Reichstag was burned – which threw Germans into a state of panic and prepared te way for even more repressive laws (sound familiar?) – Hitler introduced the “Enabling act” giving him power to make laws and disregard the constitution. Over the next few months he and the NSDAP forced other political parties out of existence through a combination of law, violence and threat of violence. The offices of Reichspraesident and Reichskanzler were also united – in Adolf Hitler naturally. NSDAP became the only political party. There were stilll elections but only for NSDAP candidates.

    It’s not clear to me that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood don’t have a similar idea of “democracy” – one election, once only. During the tenure of Morsi and the MB they don’t appear to have paid attention to any interests other than their own.

    Perhaps it is true that those who won’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Trouble is they drag everybody else down with them.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Footnote to what sailor1031 said @ # 9 – The Nazis also benefited from having the largest “opposition” party voluntarily disband. Almost exactly 6 months after Hitler was sworn in, he and the Pope agreed to a Konkordat stipulating that the Catholics would get the German kids and the Nazis would get, basically, everything else. This not only broke a de facto world diplomatic boycott of the NSDAP regime, but brought the Pope to order the Centrum party to dissolve itself, which it duly did.

    Hitler broke his side of the deal whenever convenient, but Catholic honor impelled Popes Pius XI & XII to keep faith with their fellow Catholic to the bitter end (except for two attempted long-distance exorcisms and a minor plot which went nowhere).

    /derailment

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    rerailment – Egypt has its own Pope, who has explicitly supported the popular/military coup. Leading much less of the population (~10%) than the Popes Pius did in Germany, he has much less influence than they, and – if sane – rather more fear.

  11. atheist says

    @Ophelia Benson – July 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm (UTC -7)

    A failure of democracy in the sense that the MB is Islamist and Islamism is anti-democratic. It’s self-undermining.

    In Egypt, a plurality of the voters want a government that we would call “Islamist”. To call the results of a democratic process “anti-democratic” is something of a paradox.

  12. says

    Have you really never encountered this problem before? The possibility of a majority voting to end majority rule? Of course it’s a paradox; that’s the point.

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