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The Paradoxes of the Egyptian Moment

Did deposing Morsi serve the interests of “the revolution”?

We have a situation in which the elected president of Egypt was unable, and apparently unwilling (or even clueless about) advancing the key goals of “the revolution” that brought him to power. Rather, he sought to advance the interests and entrench the power of the narrow faction from which he came. So the “forces of revolution” which had seemed outnumbered during elections (for parliament, for president, and during the constitutional referendum) reemereged and demanded a “reset” in which a new president be found to advance their interests.

Those interests include challenging the dominance of the army in the public sphere (politics and the economy) — but paradoxically, the “revolutionaries” called on the army for help in deposing Morsi because he was not the right man to lead the charge against the army and the deep state! So now we have a situation where the army and even the police are, provisionally, the sponsors and backers of a movement (“the revolution” led by Egyptian youth) which by its very logic of its intentions, will turn against them at some point down the road!

As a friend reminded me yesterday, the Muslim Brothers were by no means the leaders of the February 2011 revolution against Mubarak. However, they were the best-organized political force left standing once Mubarak’s old guard was defeated, so they were the main beneficiaries of the elections that the Febuary 2011 revolution made possible. The February 2011 revolutionaries then found themselves in the unenviable position of having achieved a key demand — free and fair elections — which nevertheless set Egypt on a course that was in direct conflict with the rest of their demands — namely for an open, inclusive, and participatory society based on human dignity and social reform. This deeper transformation, which the revolution had really been all about to begin with, simmered under the surface over the past year and a half, largely frustrated by the Muslim Brothers who had seized power, and lacking an organized, institutional voice.

Finding that voice and building those institutions (through political parties, NGOs, the media, and elements of the new state) are the unfinished business of “the revolution.” The recent army-sponsored “reset” has once again opened the space for that to happen, but the “revolutionaries” will have to continue their transformative struggle, both through elections and culturally, socially — and of course realize that the army that helped them today is in a marriage of convenience only, and can’t be counted on to share their vision of an open society over the long term.

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