By Khaled Nasir*
Mohamed Morsi the leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, and the first democratically elected president of Egypt came into power on June 30th 2012, with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, a grassroots Islamic movement, and was ousted by a military coup on July 3rd, 2013 after mass protests took place. The Muslim Brotherhood came to power after more than 80 years of underground politics. The Brotherhood, with branches throughout the Middle East has long waged war against Middle Eastern governments through militancy. Although the rise of the Brotherhood was welcomed by a share of the population, mostly members of the Freedom and Justice party and its allies in Egypt; the liberals, Arab leftists, and youth organizations, were dissatisfied as the Brotherhood monopolized state power, and ignored the much needed reforms – reforms that were primary concerns of ordinary Egyptians.
Since the rise of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to power, the economic program that was implemented was similar to the ones during the Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak eras prior to the revolution. These are the same policies that played a pivotal role in uniting ordinary Egyptians to lead a revolution. These policies did not look at the interests of the people and the standard of living of the poor; they gave advantage to the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, favored billionaires and military leaders – much like during the Mubarak era. The ordinary citizens started questioning the reasons why they started a revolution in the first place. The citizens were struggling every single day with a ruined economy and a bankrupt country, plagued with corruption as Egyptians suffered of daily blackouts and long queues to get gas. Morsi’s governance started resembling the one of Mubarak.
Morsi did not waste time as he appointed fellow Brotherhood members to head key ministries, notwithstanding the criticism by the media as he was cracking down on media and groups that did not share the same political views. He gave Islamists control of key government ministries, including those of education and information. After being ousted, Morsi replaced seventeen provincial governors; replaced seven of them with Muslim Brotherhood members and one with a member of an ex-militant Islamist group, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyaa. Even the army was not safe when he replaced the generals who emerged as the greatest threat to his authority with new generals who would answer to him. Furthermore, he issued a constitutional declaration constitutional declaration that gave him full executive power over the state.
The disappointments and frustrations boiled up and exploded with the form of a revolt – the Tamarod. Morsi’s oust came four days after a day of mass protest involving millions which turned into a campaign of the Tamarod (Rebellion) – a form of petition demanding the resignation of Morsi. Egyptian revolutionaries say the reach of the June 30 demonstrations was even greater than in February 2011, with immense turnouts. The movement has been organized by the parties opposing the Muslim Brotherhood through networks of volunteers, as major political forces such as the National Salvation Front led by Mohamed ElBaradei, the April 6 Youth Movement, the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Conference party joined the movement to protest against Brotherhood backed government. This marked a turning point in the revolution, as the hope for reconciliation among Muslim Brotherhood and others, was lost.
As pro and anti Morsi supporters were facing each other in Cairo and Alexandria,the international media labeled the army’s decision to step in as the mark of a second revolution. The Egyptian army has had a long history in modern Egyptian politics, since the time Nasser came to power through a military coup. Moreover, it is an army that not only is a political or military power, but also a huge economic power, as it directly controls a big part of the Egyptian economy. From Nasser to Mubarak, all previous governments relied on the army to consolidate their power. State power was, for example, at risk when the army failed to stop the radicals from assassinating President Anwar Sadat. The country is the largest recipient of US military aid after Israel and a setback between Israeli-Egyptian relations would mean more problems for the army. Under these circumstances the army had no option left but to intervene as no other institution could challenge the authority of the Brotherhood.
It is clear that Morsi’s fall does not necessarily mean the end of the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization effective both in underground and public politics. Democratization without institutionalization time and again has proven wrong in the Middle East. The lack of institution has favored the rise of dictators, set communities against each other, paved the way for the radicals to rise and in Egypt’s case led to a democratically elected tyranny thus prolonging a national and regional crisis that could soon spread throughout Middle East.
Khaled Nasir has a BA degree in Media Communication from Independent University, Bangladesh. He has a MA degree in Development Studies majoring on International Relations from the same university in 2011. He has been currently working at an NGO as a Project Monitoring and Evaluation coordinator. His interests include international security, Middle Eastern Affairs, global health governance and political economy. You can follow Khaled on twitter at @KhaledNasir2.