Egypt’s Second Revolution, Ctd

Shadi Hamid notes that there “is no legal or constitutional mechanism through which Morsi, who was elected with 51.7 percent of the vote just a year ago, can be ousted”:

Opting for a revolutionary course this late in the game — after more than two years of transition and five elections — means starting from scratch with little guarantee that the second time will be much better. At some point, the past cannot be undone, except perhaps through mass violence on an unprecedented scale. If the first elected Islamist president is toppled, then what will keep others from trying to topple a future liberal president? If one looks at Tamarod’s justifications for seeking Morsi’s overthrow, the entire list consists of problems that will almost certainly plague his successor. They have little to do with a flawed transition process and a rushed constitution that ran roughshod over opposition objections and everything to do with performance (“Morsi was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been reestablished and no social security realized, [giving] clear proof that he is not fit for the governance of such a country as Egypt,” reads the Tamarod statement of principles). Legitimacy cannot depend solely or even primarily on effectiveness or competence. If it did, revolution could be justified anywhere at any time, including in at least several European democracies.

Umar Farooq talks with Morsi supporters, who make related points:

“The constitution says the President stays for 4 years,” said Akram Elkot, a 27-year-old physician and a Morsi supporter from Alexandria. “If you don’t agree with the president, then wait for new elections.”

J.J. Gould describes the reaction of Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American democracy activist:

“I actually think it’s the best thing possible that the Muslim Brotherhood are now in government in Egypt,” Eltahawy said, “because they’ve embarrassed themselves for the terrible job of governing that they’ve done in a way that none of us could have done; they’ve done us a huge favor.” The Muslim Brotherhood has, in other words, accelerated both its political implosion and the comprehensive discrediting of its political ideology — at the cost to the Egyptian people of having had to endure a year of super-dreadful governance

And Avi Issacharoff points out that new elections might not bring change:

[I]t is worth remembering that at the moment it is easy for the opposition to arrange itself around the idea of bringing down Morsi. In the unlikely event of the president deciding to resign in the near future, then the old divisions between opposition factions would reappear. There is even a chance that should presidential elections be brought forward, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate would win yet again.

Egypt’s Second Revolution


Protests are still simmering and five ministers have resigned from Morsi’s cabinet. This morning, the Egyptian military offered (NYT) Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum to effectively respond to the demonstrations, turning this into a military coup in the eyes of some:

In a statement read on state television, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of the Egyptian military, said the mass demonstrations that intensified over the weekend, including the storming of the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo early Monday, reflected an “unprecedented” expression of popular anger at Mr. Morsi and his Islamist backers in the brotherhood during his first year in power.

It was unclear from the general’s statement whether the military was specifically demanding that Mr. Morsi resign. But the statement said that if Mr. Morsi did not take steps to address demands for a more inclusive government, the armed forces would move to impose their “own road map for the future.”

Reuters reports seven dead and over 600 wounded so far. Issandr El Amrani explains how Morsi became so hated over the past year:

[H]is November 27, 2012, constitutional declaration was probably illegal and ended any benefit of the doubt the opposition was ready to give to him. The rushing of the constitution was likewise a slap in the face that created the opportunity of the current moment, with revolutionaries, liberals and old regime members temporarily collaborating against what they perceive as the greater evil of the Muslim Brotherhood. And he has made at least one disastrous decision, in the context of last December’s crisis, that has significantly worsened the economic outlook of the country by postponing reforms that had been planned as part of the IMF rescue package. I do not think it is fair, however, to blame Morsi for the more general economic situation (he inherited massive debt, an electricity crisis, a subsidies crisis, etc.) but it is true that save from raising loans from Qatar and elsewhere he has done little to stem it — and indeed his profligate spending on civil service salaries has worsened things to some extent.

Juan Cole emphasizes that much “of the protest is economic”:

Morsi’s government has pursued austerity policies and it has failed to revive tourism or attract substantial productive investment. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have been cut in half, causing the Egyptian pound to fall in value, and hurting Egyptians, who depend on imported food and fuel. The textile workers of al-Mahalla al-Kubra, whose 2006-2008 strikes were a rallying cry for anti-Mubarak activists, have warned that under Morsi their factories are threatened with closure altogether. Although some of the animus against Morsi comes from liberals and secularists annoyed by his religious fundamentalism, many of the protesters on Sunday were devout Muslims who just object to Morsi’s high-handed style of governing, failed economic policies, and favoritism toward his Muslim Brotherhood base. One banner in Tahrir said, ‘we are for Islam, against the Muslim Brotherhood.’

Laura Dean reports from Cairo:

I spoke with Amani Sayed, 43, who wore a full face veil, about why she had decided to come out. Holding a piece of cardboard over her head to shield herself from the sun, she told me she had been in the square since ten thirty in the morning. This at around five in the afternoon. When asked why she was there, she was adamant: “He has divided us.”

“Christians from Muslims!” her friend interjected.

“And Muslims from Muslims,” said Amani. “We are munaqabat [wear face veils], muhagabat [wear hijabs], unveiled. Egyptians are liberals, secular, conservative. We’re all Egyptian.”

And Jonathan Guyer provides a slideshow of political cartoons skewering Morsi:

Morsi is drawn as a cowboy, as Godzilla attacking Cairo’s skyline, and, of course, as a pharaoh. He is a cleric in Muslim Brotherhood regalia. He sends a Tweet from his cell phone to the Egyptian people, as he sits on the toilet, pants dropped. He orders carryout: “I’d like the revolutionary platter…and hold the opposition.”

(Photo: Egyptians hold a plaque of the Muslim Brotherhood emblem which was removed from the party’s burnt headquarters in the Moqattam district of Cairo on July 1, 2013 after it was set ablaze by opposition demonstrators overnight. By Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Rejecting The Head Of State

One year after Mohamed Morsi’s inauguration as president, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians are flooding Tahrir Square calling for his resignation. The protests are even more massive than the 18-day revolution that toppled Mubarak back in February 2011:

The scene on Sunday was a far cry from a year ago today, when supporters packed the square to celebrate Morsi’s inauguration. Now many are back to blame him for a stagnant economy, worsening security and an ongoing lack of basic services. Demonstrators waved red cards and chanted “irhal” – “leave”, and promised to camp in the square until Morsi resigns. Thousands more have joined marches headed for the presidential palace, and are expected to arrive around dusk. “It’s the same politics as Mubarak but we are in a worse situation,” said Sameh al-Masri, one of the organisers on the main stage. “Poverty is increasing, inflation is increasing. It’s much worse than Mubarak.”

The Tahrir protests are peaceful so far, but another wave of demonstrators marched to the presidential palace and the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, where things got aggressive:

[S]everal dozen youths attacked the headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood on a plateau overlooking the capital. They threw stones and firebombs at the building, and people inside the walled villa fired at the attackers with birdshot, according to an Associated Press Television News cameraman at the scene. Earlier in the day, two offices belonging to the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, were attacked and ransacked in the city of Bani Suef, south of Cairo.

The AP reports that the protesters are made up of “secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians – and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists”:

They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country. With protesters from a range of social and economic levels in a festive atmosphere, the crowds resembled those from the 18 days of protests against Mubarak – a resemblance the protesters sought to reinforce, chanting the slogan from that time: “The people want to topple the regime.”

Cairo-based journalist Evan Hill reviews the path that led to this moment:

A journalist said it was as if Egypt’s body politic were rejecting a transplant and killing the nation in the process, a fledgling democracy’s auto-immune system gone haywire. …

If Morsi falls or steps down, millions of Egyptians will view it as a victory. Perhaps he could be succeeded by a salvation government, and some kind of stable progress will ensue, though the Brotherhood can hardly be expected to quietly allow their project to dissolve around them, and it would likely mean the return of the army to a guiding role. Revolutions come with chaos. History teaches us that many years may pass before a country comes out of such upheaval with a working government, satisfactory justice and reconciliation, and a consensus about national identity. But even in such a positive scenario, it is hard not to view the first two and a half years of Egypt’s revolution as a series of squandered promises.