Egypt’s Turbulent Transition

Once again, the land of one of the oldest civilizations is facing its newest storm.  

The winds of change are not merely sweeping across Egypt, but battering it mercilessly. And caught in the tempestuous upheavals are the irate citizens who are, clearly, as unsure about Egypt’s immediate political future as is the rest of the world.

When the army sides with the people and ousts its president, is it being democratic or not? Can the ousting be called a coup, or not?

Like me, analysts around the world are debating this political phenomenon after this week’s events in Egypt.

Barely a year ago, after their great Arab Spring revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptians were jubilant when they got the elections they asked for.

But on the one-year anniversary, of the election of Muslim Brotherhood‘s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) leader Mohamed Morsi as President, hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square, while millions more protested across the country, demanding his resignation.

On Tuesday night, he vowed not to step down despite the growing demand and din telling him to leave. And there were unconfirmed reports that he was considering a “consensus” government.

On Wednesday night, however, he was completely stripped of his office soon after the deadline given by the protestors expired.

And the army took control of the government and his custody. It immediately issued arrest warrants to some 300 Muslim Brotherhood leaders.  The head of the Egyptian Army announced that the constitution stands suspended. And many Islamist TV and radio Channels were taken off air.

Egypt is once again back to Square One. It is back to its original aspirations for a ‘real’ democracy. It is back to military rule, after a turbulent romance with democracy.

Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) founded by the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the 2011 Egyptian revolution had won a majority in the May–June 2012 presidential elections. But now, with the collapse caused by these angry new revolutionists, Egypt is now back to its pre-election times.

Muslim Brotherhood’s leaders who were – till five days ago – frequent speakers on Egyptian TV talk shows and radio stations are nowhere to be found by media people. They are either in custody or in hiding. 

What went wrong can be analysed in a hundred ways, and what is ahead can also be hoped for in a hundred ways. But let us hope for good. Islamists and Morsi supporters are calling for more protests. But the others are calling for fresh elections at the earliest. The confrontation between the two should not slip into a Civil War as some fear.

Two days ago, there were reports that Adly Mansour, Egypt’s new interim president, has appointed Mohamed Elbaradei, the former head of UN’s Vienna based IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) as the new Interim Prime Minister of Egypt.

But some parties like the Salafist Nour Party said they would not work with the pro-reform leader Elbaradei. And a quick statement from president’s office said no official appointment has been made so far.

So, we must see if the interim government by military will go forward in effectively conducting fresh elections and if Muslim Brotherhood will win again.  

On the one hand, the Egyptian generals are telling us that what happened is all about democracy. They tell us that the military had simply responded to the call of the people, and it has done what should be taken as democratically correct.

On the other hand, pro-Morsi and pro Muslim Brotherhood people say  it’s completely against democracy. They ask, how can you forcibly remove a democratically elected person? Can army take street protests as its authority to erase elections?

On the one hand, Morsi’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr who went against Morsi and joined the Army says, “this is not a military coup in any way. This was actually the overwhelming will of the people”.

On the other hand, Mostafa Al-Khatib, editor of the Justice and Development newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Brotherhood says, “Arrest warrants go non-stop. The Mubarak-era oppressive tactics are back once again in a more ferocious form. They (Army) are arresting anyone carrying the group’s identification cards.”

The question no longer seems to be if this event can be defined as a coup d’état or not.

The question now is whether fresh new elections will give new directions and dimensions to this troubled land.

The question now is whether this once land of the pharaohs – towards which the rest of the world once looked for intelligence and education – will show the world it will manage itself effectively.