A formal contest of argumentation; two writers enter, two writers leave.
Participants – Sébastien Potvin [pro] and Michael Chmielewski [contra]
Sébastien Potvin – Contributor
The Egyptian military putsch of July 3, 2013, ousted the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi. However, moving past the knee-jerk reaction to label this an anti-democratic effort, I believe the Egyptian military establishment acted sincerely in the name of the Egyptian people. That is to say, quite plainly, that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is acting in the interests of democracy. I will be the first to admit that this thesis, at least initially, has all the trappings of contradiction. But, when combining an analytical assessment of the military’s actions between the Revolution of 2011 to the events surrounding the putsch in 2013, and an objective assessment of what democratic consolidation looks like, I conclude that the military acted with genuine concern for democratic values.
The main pillar on which my argument rests is the fact that since the start of the Egyptian Revolution, the military institution has proven itself to be in sync with the Egyptian people. After decades of military or pseudo-military rule, this comes as somewhat of a shock. Despite this, steps were taken to not only sympathize with, but also support, the democratic revolution that swept over Egypt in 2011. It was a do-or-die situation for the military: either they could defend Hosni Mubarak as Muammar Gaddafi was in Libya or Bashar Al-Assad currently is in Syria and that would see an immediate elimination of international aid and prestige, or they could side with the growing tide of popular discontent and thus become partners. Military leadership thus judiciously and perceptively sided with History. There is no turning back in a Revolution when the critical mass of support has passed the point of no return, as it had in Egypt. The military saw this, and on their own initiative along with the legitimacy of the people’s wish, removed the Egyptian ruler. It was a move that saved the military’s reputation (as it is a highly respected institution) and ensured a place for it in the future.
This historic and pro-democratic move by the military has shaped their ongoing policy of ensuring the establishment of a legitimate government of the people. The latest move of deposing the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi was part of this policy. According to the Egyptian electoral process, Mr. Morsi’s election was indeed legal. However, several issues and a growing unpopularity eroded this legitimacy to the point where forceful removal was the safest course of action for the up-and-coming democracy.
Keeping in mind that a healthy and resilient democracy requires the careful balancing of powers between the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature, Mr. Morsi was found to regularly shrug off rulings of the courts (as with the ruling that the election of Mr. Morsi was unconstitutional and that a re-run was necessary). In fact, the President showed blatant disrespect for this basic tenant that his Nov 2012 Declaration called for what amounted to his government’s immunity against the courts. Without the courts to restrain excessive executive powers, who takes their place? As things would have it, it was indeed the people who returned to the streets as before to protest what was a flagrant attack against democratic values.
Add to this the embarrassment that was the Constituent Assembly, a disregard for the fundamental rights of minorities, as well as an uncompromising approach to legislature with the other democratically elected secularists, liberals, and moderate Islamic parties, and we are left with a President who despite being elected has nonetheless lost popular and legal legitimacy. Based on the military’s prior actions and their vested interests in seeing themselves allied with the will of the people, I am certain that Egypt is on the correct path to what will hopefully become a functioning and consolidated democracy in the near future. I can only hope that the need for such interventions will be reduced.
ContraDemocracy has been ripped from the womb in Egypt.
Across the sea, a savage and efficiently over-equipped military has stolen democratic rights out of the hands of Egypt’s people. This was the first democratically elected government in Egypt’s history.
The protests in Egypt started out as a demonstration against President Morsi, which by all accounts is fine by me. I don’t agree with the Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi on most points, and I welcomed the healthy democratic protest against the government.
I felt apprehension as the military began to get involved. Wasn’t this the same military that was a foundation for autocracy before the Arab Spring? Why didn’t they overthrow Muburak’s government, if they were sincere to democracy?
Turns out, that apprehension was justified, as the military started gunning down protestors in the street.
Our question here asks if the coup is sincere to democracy, and I say no. The military only has its own interests in mind. It is the only political power in Egypt, over the last few tumultuous years, to remain relatively unscathed.
When the Arab Spring came across Egypt, the military let Muburak be disposed, and pretended to side with democracy. Now, another opportunity came for them to seize power, and they seized it straight away, again siding with popular opinion.
The fundamental fact here, though, is that they overthrew a democratically elected government. The will of the people had spoken, but the military believes it knows better, and it acts like it is protecting democracy.
I agree with my debating opponent, and with people who possess common sense, that Morsi himself was not a great democratic leader.
In fact, the initial protestors agreed as well.
Agree with the military’s intentions or not, one thing speaks loud and clear: murder.
The military killed protesters in cold blood. They targeted Muslim Brotherhood supporters just because of who they were. The people who protested the sacking of a democratic government were met with bullets, while the original protesters were supported by the military.
Yes, the Morsi government had lost popular support, and that’s why it was up to the people to protest and bring that government down, not the military. Democracy is rule by the people, not by the military.
If the military was in such favour of democracy, then why are they actively trying to shut down the Muslim Brotherhood after Morsi had been thrown out of office? Spiritual leaders have been arrested, Brotherhood members are being discriminated against. To me, it seems the military, if it so chooses to have one, is trying to heavily destroy the chances of the Brotherhood to even run in the next election. In a rule by the people, it should be the people deciding the chances of a political organization in an election, not the military. They are currently charging Morsi with the killing of opponents protesting outside his palace while in office.
Then isn’t the military guilty of the exact same crime? Except the military, and my debating opponent in saying the military is sincere, claims that it is helping democracy by killing innocents.
As a Washington Post article said, “Egypt’s Ministry of Health stopped publishing a total casualty count from the crackdown on Aug.17 ‘because of the huge number of deaths’…at that point, more than 900 people had been killed in four days, according to the official tally.”
Let’s say that the military does host an election, and it’s deemed fair and legal. What will happen with that government once it falls out of favour with the military? Will it be up to the people, or the military? This coup sets a bad precedent.