News / Middle East

    Experts: Looking Beyond Egypt's Latest Revolution

    A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, Egypt, July 4, 2013.
    A supporter holds a poster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi with Arabic that reads, "Sisi traitor," during a rally, in Nasser City, Cairo, Egypt, July 4, 2013.
    Mohamed Elshinnawi
    Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, took office on June 30, 2012, only to be deposed by the military after barely completing his first year in office. Backed by widespread popular support, the military suspended the constitution and named Adly Mansour, chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, interim president until fresh elections can be held.

    While many experts believe the military will likely remain in control over the short term and continue influencing events behind the scenes after the constitution is amended and restored, others question whether the military intervention has already undermined the country’s longer term prospects for popular democratic rule.

    “[The military] has produced a road map for the coming transition that appears to be more of a loophole than an actual text,” says Nathan Brown, Senior Associate, Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But behind it seems to be a desire among most civilian actors that the military will manage the process in a way that restores civilian rule.”

    But Sahar Aziz, associate professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law and a member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association, calls military governance the death knell of democracy, irrespective of the military’s purportedly good intentions.

    “Not only are initial promises of short-term rule quickly broken,” she says, “but the military is simply unqualified to govern a nation of more than 80 million people, of whom about 25 percent live below the poverty line.”

    But as elections take place — and the military has promised to organize them quickly — Brown says established non-Islamist groups who lost out to the Brotherhood in past votes may be aiming to make a comeback.

    “The youth leaders of the Tamarrud [’Rebellion’] campaign that sought Morsi’s ouster will be major players over the longer term as well, if they can maintain some level of popular mobilization and devise a political strategy,” he says, adding that Brotherhood leaders can still have an effect on events by deciding whether and in what ways they will resist the coup.

    “Ultimately, however, the conservative Islamists ‘Salafis’ may come out as a long-term winner, using the blow to the Brotherhood to move to the fore among the Islamist segment of the population,” he says.

    Egyptian society is far more divided than after the revolution two years ago, Brown notes,  warning that the transition to democracy must be inclusive and the process of building a new government taken seriously.

    Asked what are the primary political lessons from 2011, Brown says Morsi’s aborted presidency was marked by several key errors.

    “First, he made a strategic miscalculation when he decided that the opposition would moan and groan but could not really obstruct him,” says Brown. “Second, he was unable to reach Egyptians outside of his base.Even when he tried, his language alienated those he tried to attract. And third, he handled his final crisis poorly. Morsi had an almost impeccable sense of offering the wrong speech at the wrong time.

    “Morsi did not have many policy achievements,” he says. “For most Egyptians, conditions got worse during his presidency.”

    Aziz, however, says the most important lesson for all current and future politicians is that Egyptians have been forever changed by the 2011 revolution.

    “No longer will they be used as pawns by political leaders, even if democratically elected, who engage in illegal governance tactics,” she says.

    Will Morsi’s ouster change Islamist tactics? 

    While the Muslim Brotherhood’s short-lived rule of Egypt has already cheered as many as it has dismayed, the real impact of its sudden deposition may be yet to be seen for quite some time.

    “The coup might convince some Islamists that they will never win power through the political process,” says Brown/ “That would be a dangerous conclusion but not an unexpected one for some Islamist groups.”

    For Khaled Fahmy, Chair of the History Department at the American University in Cairo,the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest mistake was a disastrous reading of the political situation. He suggests the Islamist movement wrongly perceived that winning free and fair elections was what the revolution was all about, and thereby insisted on a winner-takes-all approach, failing to give the opposition credible and meaningful concessions or to include its members in the government.

    “People did not take to the streets in Jan-Feb 2011 and risk their lives only to have free and fair elections,” says Fahmy. “And they were not willing to go back home because someone won the presidential elections, until they made sure that this individual appeared to be answering their main demands.”

    A new policy challenge for the U.S.

    Dennis Ross, former special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama and senior director of the Central Region on the National Security Council staff, says that  while the United States has limited influence in shaping events in Egypt, it has a stake in what happens there.

    “The last thing we want is for Egypt to become a failed state — a reality that would threaten stability in the wider Middle East,” he says. “With conspiracy always rife in Egypt and suspicions of us running deeply, we need to stand on key principles and not for any group or party in Egypt. President Obama had that right in his statement in response to the military's removal of Morsi.”

    Obama called on the Egyptian military to respect the rights “of all Egyptian men and women” in the aftermath of Morsi’s removal from power.

    “The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military,” the statement read.

    According to The New York Times, the United States provides Egypt’s military $1.3 billion in aid annually.

    For now, Ross says, the U.S. should emphasize the need for a credible political transition that sets a date for new presidential elections; provides for an inclusive approach to the writing of a new constitution; creates ground rules for the election that exclude only those committed to violence; calls on all parties to refrain from violence and ostracizes those who commit it; and that encourages the interim administration to tackle economic needs and not defer dealing with them until after elections.

    Experts agree that it is too soon to know whether what has happened in Egypt can move the country in a more hopeful direction.

    “In the end, it is Egyptians that have the most to gain from lessons learned and the most to lose for mistakes made,” says Aziz. “The obvious lesson to be learned from the one year Morsi term is that leaders need to be inclusive, with a “no victor, no vanquished” approach, take procedural questions more seriously in deciding how to reconstruct the political system, and learn how to manage their differences.”

    You May Like

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: M. Tawdi from: Cairo
    July 07, 2013 9:00 AM
    I find it ridiculous to consider it a military coup ignoring the will of 20 million Egyptians in the streets all over Egypt. The military only acted on behalf of the Egyptian people. USA will loose Egypt as an ally if this misconception continues.

    by: Paulo Roberto Mattos Luiz from: Brazil
    July 06, 2013 8:15 AM
    I think that the people in Egypt as well as many people in the Arab World want to separate once and for all religions from politics. The people can´t stand electing democratically a President to govern the country for the interests of his religion and not for everyone's interests. A president should be neutral while governing the country and take no sides on religion.
    In Response

    by: Terrence from: Australia
    July 07, 2013 2:10 AM
    I think the Egyptian people will want to completely remove the army from the politics of the country. This was the unfinished business of the revolution. This was also the biggest mistake of the Brotherhood. They did not learn the lesson from Turkey's experience. The first thing that has to happen is get broad consensus among the patriotic groups that the army should not be allowed to play any part in Egyptian politics. The second thing that needs to happen is to decline the $1.25 billion US aid to the army. If there has to be any assistance it must be channelled through the government and spent at the discretion of the govt not of the army. Thirdly, the Brotherhood needs to be a little bit more savvy and diplomatic while governing. Just having good intentions and just rule is not enough. There are powerful national and international elements who are very cunning and who will forever try to impose their agendas in different ways. The government has to manoeuvre through these diplomatically and not take them on all at once.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora