Dance to the democratic mambo (04/07/13)

A new low for me, a month without a post and I shall offer no apology whatsoever, as you’ve come to expect.

President Mohammed Morsi

You know those rights you wanted? Yeah, I’ll get back to you.

Happy day! President Mubarak is gone! Decades of dictatorship are over so lets hold an election to install a democratic government…oh, dear, he’s not very democratic at all. We don’t like him very much at all – anybody want another coup? So it came to pass that Egypt does it again: two for two. President Mohammed Morsi has been chucked out in a military kind-of-coup (or just a coup depending on who you ask) and is now under house arrest. So what has led to this and how did they lever him out?

A year ago in my “Lose, lose: liberalism dies a dismal death” post I made rather vociferous observations about the dangers of allowing anyone with a hankering for Sharia into power if you expected a liberal government. Saying I told you so isn’t always fun but President Mohammed Morsi’s tenure was not just illiberal, it also smacked of the undemocratic. The USA and UK looked at Morsi and saw a man they could do business with, others saw a man whose party (the Muslim Brotherhood) was dismantling its country’s constitution then rejiggering the document into something, unsurprisingly, far more Islamist. An Islamic constitution isn’t a document that places liberties at its forefront and I can’t see any compromise with secular Egyptians. President Morsi came to rule, not to govern. The Brotherhood seized control of the revolution in it closing to associate Mubarak with “Western” progressive ideals including religious tolerance and sexual equality. Leading to attacks on minorities and sexual violence.

A few months into his tenure and the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt said the Egyptian lower and upper houses had been elected under an invalid law. So instead of dissolving the largely symbolic Senate, the Shura Council (where there were more  Islamist supporters of the Brotherhood), the legislative parliament (necessarily more representative) was dissolved. Seems legitimate to me…the shit it does. There should have been elections in that year so that buckets of legislative power didn’t reside with the Muslim Brotherhood. Shockingly, give me fucking strength, no such elections materialised.

Morsi promised parliamentary elections this October, but first he had to do some political padding to ensure more Islamists were in power. In May of this year, as opposition voices embodied by the National Salvation Front were growing louder and louder, Morsi reshuffled cabinet again. Three guesses as to which party most of his ministers are senior members of? No, that was a rhetorical question, the answer is not Monster Raving Loony. Suffice to say, the opposition was less than pleased with a cabinet that was two steps away from being a Sharia council. On 3rd June this year, the SCC ruled that the Islamist-dominated Shura Council and Islamist-dominated panel which had drawn up the new constitution are totally invalid. With every part of government he’s overseen deemed as legitimate as buying a £5 Gucci watch from inside the trench coat of Dodgy Bob behind a van in Peckham, you’d think that something has to got to give. It did.

They actually have their forks and pitchforks next to their coats in Egypt.

They actually have their torches and pitchforks next to their coats in Egypt.

On the anniversary of his election, the Egyptian people took to Tahrir Square again to protest for his removal. President Morsi had miscalculated how much he could dick around with the opposition before it went ape shit. Again. In scenes ironically echoing the protests which forced his predecessor out of office, hundreds of thousands flocked to Tahrir Square but this time it was Morsi’s face on signs that simply said “Leave”. Tamarod, a campaign lobbying for Morsi’s removal, was formed in April and gathered millions of signatures culminating in nationwide protests from all fronts – even the bloody Salafi, who are much worse than the Brotherhood – on 30th June. The military, whose checkered past doesn’t usually endear them to the kind of people who gather together for Tahrir Square ousting shindigs, delivered an ultimatum to Morsi. Get your shit together by Wednesday or we take the house. The president delivered a statement saying he would defend the constitution, yadda yadda ya, etc, etc. Even the police force got on “Morsi Leave” bandwagon, it needed the PR boost after brutality against protesters.

The next day the military rolled into Cairo to do a few things: place Mohammed under house arrest, close down pro-Brotherhood media outlets, suspend the Islamist constitution and installed the country’s top judge as interim president. There are those in the country who see this as a continuation of their 2011 revolution while others see their elected government forced out by the military. I am nervous again, made bitter by the evidence, that what will result from this latest coup could be worse than Morsi. Morsi’s time in office saw the Islamist sentiments in the country suppress religious minorities, gang rape as a warning to its own women and rebel against the incipience “Western” ideas. However, does the prospect of a military puppet regime sit better with any of us? What about the prospect of a really hardline Salafi government? Then there’s the fundamental question. Can the Middle East actually handle, or even want, democracy? One thing is certain. Polite debate in UK about whether you should be able to recall your MPs early will never result in hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square. If only because that would require us to stop being massively apathetic. Come on people, we’re the political equivalent of a morbidly obese person refusing to get off the sofa and change the channel manually because they’d have to put down their chicken wings.

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