Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Lessons from Egyptian irony

By He Wenping (China Daily) Updated: 2013-07-08 07:15

The difficulty in judging Egypt's latest political development stems from confusion over what kind of democracy to embrace

Lessons from Egyptian irony

The Egyptian military's decision to remove President Mohamed Morsi from power and suspend the constitution was said to be a response to days of mass street protests demanding the president step down. That huge crowds celebrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square amid clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi in 12 governorates across the country, which left at least 30 people dead and more than 1,000 injured by Sunday, is clear testimony of how serious the divides are in Egyptian society.

Confrontation between secular and religious forces and the showdown between an elected president and the military have pushed Egypt's democratization process to a new turning point.

Morsi was the country's first president elected through a national poll after the Egyptian people put an end to the Hosni Mubarak administration in 2011. So the government of Morsi and his party was endowed with legitimacy. Judging from the means and effect of Morsi's ousting, the military's move is no different from any other military coup.

However, over the past year, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood displayed a strong desire to establish a monopoly on power, not only repeatedly going back on previous promises to limit their power, but also failing to meet the demands of the people in terms of economic growth and social management.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's strong desire for power, incompetence in managing state affairs, coupled with their increasing favor for a constitution inspired by Sharia law, made a number of intellectuals and secular liberals that once supported Morsi and some liberal-leaning Muslim forces stand against him. They thought that although Morsi came to power through democratic means he was proving to be a new "pharaoh" and the policies his government was pursuing ran counter to the democracy they believe in.

Yet it is ironic that when the opposition's call for presidential elections ahead of time in a bid to end the one-year rule of Morsi in a democratic way proved futile, the angry opposition forces chose to provoke a non-democratic military operation to oust the elected president.

Supporters of the coup say that the army's move pulled Egypt's derailed democratization process back on track, while critics argue it was a sign of the country's backwardness and was non-democratic.

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