Friday, July 5, 2013

The Banality of Egyptian Revolution

Seeing fireworks explode over Tahrir square after President Morsi was removed thru a military coup was amusing to witness. 

I doubt that average Egyptians protesting their president have coordinated an impressive fireworks display to mark his departure. Probably the fireworks were supplied by the same Mubarak-era elites who took power from Morsi. 

The military threw out the regime and then threw Egyptians a party to celebrate the Egyptian democracy. And nothing quite fills one’s nostrils with a whiff of democracy like seeing a general on television announcing the deposition of a democratically elected president.

Everyone knows that Morsi was not the man of the hour in Egypt if hundreds of thousands of his countrymen demanded his ouster after enduring one year of his rule. But how unpopular was he?

Seeking an answer to that question I found an article in an Israeli newspaper with a headline “Egyptian poll shows Morsi popularity at all-time low.” This item was published in April of this year and at that point Morsi’s approval hit an “all-time low” of… 47%.

Yes, 47%. Nothing to brag about, ask Barack Obama who’s current approval is at 46% according to Gallup. Of course, George W. Bush’s White House would kill for a 47% approval in the waning months of that presidency.

True that poll was conducted three months ago and polling in a country like Egypt, where many people don’t own a phone, is highly subjective. But it is undeniable that anywhere between 30 to 40 percent of Egyptians supported their president who was elected in an internationally monitored election a year ago.

I am no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood, and not an expert of Egypt’s past or present. So I’m not going to pretend that I know the best course for that society. Maybe the removal of Morsi will pave a way toward a more functional political system. But it was ridiculous to witness all the euphoria that accompanied his overthrow. 

The quotes from the victors of this coup, whether they were in uniform or on the street, all harked back to democracy and revolution. None of them wanted to acknowledge that with this act they were politically sidelining at least a third of their country’s population and maybe more.

Egyptian population was not a victor in this coup, because like all other human societies this one was divided. One side won at the expense of another. And this overthrow was as much a defeat of a democratic system as it was a victory.

People pushed off a political stage tend to resort to violence.

And even if the Brotherhood and their allies don’t pick up arms, it still means that all the struggle involved in erecting the political system after the fall of Mubarak went nowhere. In the best case scenario, more than year of Egypt’s post-revolutionary history was wasted on an interim regime. In the worst case scenario, Morsi's rule foreshadowed a civil war.

Like all heads of state, Egypts deposed leader was unfairly blamed for all the problems in his country. But unlike most countries, Morsi’s nation was recovering from major political upheaval and he, the titular president, didn’t really control his government as is demonstrated by the fact that at first signs of his blood in the political waters his own government bit enthusiastically into his flesh.

Morsi’s removal might be good in the long-term or it might be disastrous.

But it opens up a new chapter of upheaval, incohesion, sporadic violence and political intrigue. And to celebrate the coming of this new chapter of Egyptian history with trite proclamation about democracy, revolution and “the people” appears stupid to this distant observer.

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