Friday, July 05, 2013

The July 3 Coup

For the opponents of Muhammad Mursi and the Brotherhood this is a moment of euphoria.  But, the moment is unlikely to be followed by significant improvement in economic conditions.  Moreover, there is a high risk of a return to authoritarian rule. While many Egyptians celebrate the coup, it is prudent to be  deeply distrustful of the Egyptian generals and their motives.  They have been the power behind the curtains for decades, and they have consistently acted to protect their sacrosanct budget and privileges.  Their notion of tutelary or guided democracy is a recipe for continued stagnation and repression. 

Mursi was a lousy president; he was not up to the job and he imprudently over-reached.  Yet, much of the bureaucracy, not least the police and the army, willfully thwarted his power and hastened his failure.  When Mursi attempted to engage in dialogue with his opponents in 2012 (pre-empting an Army initiative), the generals let the opposition know that they should not play.

It is very troubling that the generals have not only dumped Mursi, but have now gone after the senior MB leadership, and much of the second tier leadership.  Many will be charged with crimes, apparently.  This may be preliminary to re-criminalizing the MB, which would be reckless. 

A significant percentage of the voting public will support the MB in future elections. This suggests that the only way to preclude their winning future elections may be to return to Mubarak-era policies of preemptive arrests, voter suppression and manufactured electoral results.

Meantime, the anti-Mursi opposition has demonstrated little ability to organize politically versus mobilizing protests.  Indeed, the only group, other than the MB, with a serious nation-wide organization happens to be al-Nour, the Salafist party (which has aligned momentarily with the Army against Mursi).  The social and cultural views of the Salafists make the MB look moderate by comparison.

Of course, the alternative to the coup would have been for millions of Egyptians to continue to suffer under Mursi's inept rule, and to work for a shift in the power balance through parliamentary elections scheduled previously postponed to this autumn.  That is not appealing advice for people who abhor the MB and who are living through very difficult times, but I suggest that it would have been the wiser course if the generals really were intent on preserving the "January 25 Revolution."  

[Please also read the eminently sensible piece by Emile Nakhleh.  He urges a firm policy response by the Obama Adminstration, including a clearly-stated demand that the Egyptian military allow the acting president a free hand to shepherd a process of national reconciliation.]

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