A Little Sigh for Egypt

What a depressingly uneventful time it has been. Honestly, what’s the point in comment when the only worthy happenings are… well, the death of the private citizen worldwide, the ultimate proof of the US clandestine behemoth, US-Russian relations taking a nose dive, US-Ecuadoran relations taking a nose dive, Brazil nearly turning itself upside down, Egypt going through a second revolution in as many years, Syria plummeting further into despair, Europe wringing their hands over Syria, Europe wringing their hands over the ever limp economy, Britain remaining in political limbo and the nascent resurgence of fascism, all the other things that I can’t list without exhausting the comic intention of this list and all capped off with half of the world varyingly burning, melting or drowning.

As I pick up the ball again my immediate instinct is throw it away for fear of a nervous breakdown. The actual event that brought me back to the keyboard was Egypt and the ousting of beleaguered Islamist Mohammed Morsi. Many months ago I wrote rather too optimistically about the prospects of his regime as squared up against the incredibly tenacious democratic opposition of the time. Safe to say their tenacity only increased but the truth is, the chemistry of this whole scenario hasn’t changed a jot. The military remain as the true power brokers in Egypt. If the opposition groups in Cairo are patting themselves on the back today it should only really be for creating an intractable situation that pushed the army to act again, and luckily for the opposition, as it was two years ago, in their favour.

In my defence, there was nothing inevitable about any of this. Morsi could have fully championed the egalitarian hopes of his people, but instead chose the route of an unpalatable hybrid of theo-autocracy cut with minimal democratic recognition. You could say on the other hand that the people of Egypt could have just laid down and taken it for the benefit of not engaging in conflict, but that would rather be the wrong mindset. I was initially critical of the very aggressive tone that the NSF and people like El Baradei were taking against the new regime, storming and occupying the presidential palace amidst a broader narrative of disobedience, instilling an immediate siege mentality in both factions. But these were necessary measures to make the extraordinarily pertinent point that Egyptians wouldn’t meekly and immediately slip back into subservience to a government that served them in no true fashion.

I will not, on the other hand, describe the current situation as ideal to any extent. The military has repeatedly overstepped a crucial line and remains obscenely audacious in its attempts to manage the nation. From a domestic perspective I could not really think of any realistic circumstance in which I would appreciate our army staging a coup against the democratically elected government. The fear, uncertainty and anger such an event would elicit would be profound to say the least, even for those who would politically gain from it. Nevermind for those who would abjectly oppose it. And make no mistake, Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist agenda have a strong, and now more than a little miffed, support base. Morsi was of course democratically elected in a process that I don’t believe was rigged, so not only have the army undercut democracy in principle, they have undercut a legitimately elected office.

You do have to stack Morsi’s untenable vision and implementation against that fact, but all in all, the atmosphere in Egypt still strikes me as desperately uncomfortable. We now have an interim leader, Adly Mansour, the Constitutional Court’s leading judge, who has stepped up with the mandate to rid Egypt of the culture of overly powerful and revered leaders. It is marginally encouraging that the military were quick to install this man over the option of a prolonged stint of martial law, but a great many questions linger. Presumably the country will now gear itself up for another round of elections, to be held at the soonest time, but what happens if the Muslim Brotherhood achieve more democratic success?

The chances of that outcome would seem diminished after the failures of the past two years, but as said there is strong contingent of ardent supporters who don’t at all object to a politically Islamic Egypt. Their resurgence is a possibility, given the strength of organisation the Brotherhood showed in the run up to the original elections. Would the opposition riot again, causing a further sense of the futility of democracy in that country as it produces only tyrants that the technical minority can’t abide? What recourse do the disenfranchised Islamists now have? Should the NSF or those representative of it win the election, would it be right for the MB to cause upheaval in the name of enforcing their ideals? Has Egypt, or Egypt’s army, in fact made the first official value judgement that in governance Islam is fundamentally incompatible with democracy?

A mildly contradictory notion. Democracy is little more than a numbers game and if Islamism has the numbers, then it is in all senses definitely democratic. In my opinion what we are seeing, for better or worse, is the infiltration of the Western liberal notion of enshrined equality taking precedence over the desires of the majority. It is the centralisation of the theme of egalitarianism, and we’ll just have to see if it sticks or if the divisions in Egyptian society are more marked that the apparent unilateral nature of Morsi’s ousting suggest. I know one thing however, and that is that I am absolutely done with making predictions when it comes to the Middle-East.

I’ll stick to the home front in that regard, and speaking of which, there’s more to come. Before I viciously round upon our lamentable gaggle of politicians I’d like to get at least one more article out on foreign affairs. Once I get down the path of ridiculing the likes of Miliband or Balls or Osborne or whoever, I find it very, very hard to retreat.

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