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Links 06 July 2013

Daniel Levy in Al Jazeera English: Mubarak’s Children Come Home:

    “The man undoubtedly cooing as he watched the military coup against Mohamed Morsi…was his authoritarian predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak’s prison cell must now be a cheerier place, and one reason stands out. For all of their vocal hatred of the ex-leader and apparent objection to everything ‘Mubarakist’, the Tahrir revolutionaries have just proven themselves to be the most faithful followers of his core legacy — anything but the Brotherhood. …
    “The Morsi year was hardly a success story…. But to embrace the army as the great liberator just as it was busy deposing a democratically elected president and upper House of Parliament, moving tanks against rival protestors, arresting political leaders and shutting down TV stations, surely that requires a large dose of pre-existing prejudice. From day one of Morsi’s election to day 366 (when the military coup ultimatum was announced) it was more the opposition than the presidency who rejected power-sharing and compromise, insisting instead on zero-sum politics. …
    “The Tahrir protesters abandoned at least two key democratic principles — respect for outcomes expressed at the ballot box and the non-interference of the military in politics. If the Tamarod (rebel) movement, behind the latest anti-Morsi mobilization, really had 22 million supporters as it claimed, then that should have been translated into votes in parliamentary elections scheduled by President Morsi for later this year. If there were grounds for doing so, a new Parliamentary majority could then have impeached the President. …
    “This is not a victory for freedom but for the old regime, or more precisely the Egyptian deep-state — a bureaucratic, military, and business elite, that never went away, is considered to be the real power in Egypt, and that just reasserted its interests.”

Mark Levine in Al Jazeera English: L’Etat, C’Est Nous — Who Will Control the Egyptian State?

    “For its part, the military clearly considers itself, if not coterminous with the Egyptian state, then the primary conduit through which the needs and desires of the people can be realised…. Its main strategy for maintaining the ‘legitimacy’ that Morsi so quickly lost is to serve as the grand mediator of contending social and political forces that, left to their own devices, risked tearing Egypt apart.
    “In so defining its role the military has taken a page from the Arab world’s deepest state, Moroccan monarchy and the Makhzen, the political and economic elite that surrounds, is managed by and serves it. … By defining itself above partisan politics and economic interests, the King and Makhzen have been able to rule Morocco for centuries, weathering challenges that sent many other regimes to the historical dustbin and ensuring a level of entrenched political power and corruption that is the envy of most autocratic regimes. It’s a record the Egyptian military would love to emulate.
    “The question is, will the Egyptian people accept the Makhzenification of the Egyptian military? … As for the one revolutionary group within the leadership, the Tamarod movement represented by El Baradei, he and senior Tamarod leaders such as Mahmoud Badr have showered the military with praise in recent days, an attitude that has angered many revolutionary activists. Yet it’s hard to imagine Badr or any other leader of the ‘rebellion’ actually believes in the good intention of the military or other remnants of the old order. … Perhaps it is Tamarod and the millions of other protesters in the streets of Egypt…who are playing the military and the deep state, and not the other way around.
    “Who’s playing whom will become clear in the coming months. The only way the ‘rebellion’ will complete its revolutionary transformation is if it fundamentally transforms the Egyptian economy and the deeply buried political networks that still control it. And the military will do whatever it can to prevent this from happening.”

Nathan Brown in The New Republic: Egypt Coup — A Roadmap for Backseat Drivers:

    “[General Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi’s statement [deposing President Morsi] was immediately blessed by the Sheikh of al-Azhar, Egypt’s top religious official. And the country’s largest Salafi party fell into line as well. Al-Azhar and the Salafis are rivals to the Brotherhood to be sure, but why were they so quick to sign off on deposing Egypt’s first Islamist president?
    “Here’s the unspoken secret: the military, al-Azhar, and the Salafis got exactly what they wanted in the 2012 constitution. There are provisions on the military (no real civilian oversight), al-Azhar (a muscular supervisory role over Islamic legal issues), and the Islamic sharia that each of these actors want to protect. The Brotherhood had allowed these clauses in order to get necessary support for a constitution that other political forces had bitterly come to oppose.
    “So when it comes time to suggest constitutional amendments, today’s happy family of Morsi opponents may turn into a rather dysfunctional group. This is precisely where the 2011 revolution began to go off the rails…. It could happen again.”

Reuters: Egypt Left Leader Backs Military Role, Sees Short Transition:

    “Egypt’s leading left-wing politician endorsed military intervention to oust elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and said he expected a short transition to a new democratic president and parliament.
    “Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Popular Current movement…said the army had implemented the will of the people and was not seeking power for itself. …
    “Those who called Mursi’s removal this week a military coup were insulting the Egyptian people, who had turned out in their millions to demand his ouster, Sabahi said. …
    “Sabahi, a firebrand orator who models himself on former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, spelled out the sequence of steps he said had been agreed for the transition.
    “‘We have agreed on a roadmap that has a new constitution that will be drafted by a committee to amend the suspended constitution and change the disputed articles, after which people will vote on it in a referendum. Then, there will be a presidential election, then a parliamentary election,’ he said.”

Jack Whelan in After the Future: Egypt and the Problem of Democratic Legitimacy:

    “According to the civics text books, a democracy is a government in which the people are sovereign. … [Yet] it’s been demonstrated time and time again that majorities often get it wrong. … The ancient Greeks thought democracy was a form of government that inevitably devolved into tyranny precisely because of its vulnerability for majorities to be manipulated by demagogues who used popular support to obtain power, and then used that power to establish an autocracy. …
    “And so it should be obvious that because a government was democratically elected, it does not mean that it has legitimacy. The ballot box confers what I would describe as a provisional legitimacy; it’s not absolute. Ultimately legitimacy is conferred in the streets. …
    “There isn’t something sacred about democratic elections. If 50% + 1 of your electorate is insane, ignorant, and easily manipulable, you probably shouldn’t have them. … Democratic elections, I’d argue, have legitimacy only in societies with majorities that possess a basic level of decency, maturity, and civic mindedness…. Legality does not equal legitimacy.”

Jack Whelan in After the Future: Sirota v. Brooks on Egyptians’ Mental Capacity:

    “What if the Christian fundamentalists in Mississippi completely dominated the state Republican Party in the next election cycle, win in a landslide, and ram through the substitution of Biblical Law for its state constitution? Would that be ok just because a majority supported it in a democratic process? Or would it be a sign that most Mississipians lacked the mental capacity to govern in the modern world? Why is it different in Egypt, and why is it wrong to question the mental capacity of any country, state, or party that allows itself to be governed by religious fanatics? …
    “Democracy is not an end it itself; it is a means to an end, namely to deliver within the framework of a contemporary, pluralistic society a basic level of sanity and decency. If I live in a society in which power resides with an entrenched faction dominated by actors who are not sane and decent, even if they are democratically elected, then democracy has failed. If insanity and indecency have clotted the system with majority approval, then the decent, sane people in the minority cannot be blamed for looking for other than democratic means to fix the problem.”

(Yes, but who decides who the “sane and decent” people are — and who gives them that right? Apparently, they just know who they are, and they give themselves that right. This “right to know better” is the flaw of liberal elitism, which led to the Christian fundamentalist backlash in the US in the first place. A similar arrogance can be seen today among certain secular-minded people in the Arab world. They only support democratic outcomes if those outcomes break their way. See the quote from Daniel Levy above: “It was more the opposition than the presidency who rejected power-sharing and compromise, insisting instead on zero-sum politics.”)

Michael Plitnick in Souciant: Egypt’s Elusive Democracy.

Lakome.com: Egyptian Crisis and Eventual Repurcussions for Morocco — What Do Moroccan Politicians Think? (in French).

The Guardian: Morsi’s Downfall Determined by Coffee Shop Rebels Rather than Army:

    “‘The economy was being wrecked by the [Brotherhood] movement,’ [said a senior western diplomat who had spent time with Morsi]. ‘They were spending at least $1.5bn per month more than they should have. They were using months and months of reserves at a critical level. You couldn’t deny the underlying trend that the government was heading for bankruptcy.’ …
    “By March, serious diplomatic efforts had started to convince Morsi to form a government of national unity.
    “‘We were trying to convince them to broaden the base of political participation,’ said the diplomat. ‘After much negotiation, they declined and then went about making it even worse by maintaining a technocratic government run by newly promoted lower-grade officials with bad ideas.’ …
    “By mid-June, with other state institutions now sharing the military’s alarm, the tide was clearly turning against Morsi. Tamarod claimed to have received more than 20m petition signatures.
    “Within a week, citizens experienced shortages of essentials, especially food and fuel. Long queues for fuel are rare in Egypt, where the military…is usually a guarantor of supply. But in the leadup to the first anniversary of Morsi’s swearing in — June 30 — …the shortages seemed specially severe.”

(Doesn’t this last bit belie the headline, which claims that youth, not the army, are responsible for the fall of Morsi? Doesn’t it raise the suspicion that the army may have engineered fuel shortages, to stoke popular discontent with Morsi’s government at a crucial time?)

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