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Egypt: Neither Coup nor Revolution

AfricaFocus Bulletin
July 8, 2013 (130708)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"We did not launch this revolution nor risk our lives only to change the players. We wanted to change the rules of the game. That was the mandate we gave to Morsy. He has failed in this crucial task, so we no longer recognize him as a legitimate leader. He has broken the terms of the mandate. And our revolution continues." - Khaled Fahmy

The African Union, Senator John McCain, and the majority of the Western media call it a coup. The majority of Egyptians see it as a popular uprising, despite the involvement of the military. Surely it is neither exclusively one nor the other, however unsettling that may be to our need to classify (and the practical implications of doing so, such as whether U.S. aid is to be suspended).

But what it is finally called will depend above all on future unknowables and on Egyptians themselves, whether those in the streets for or against, or in the barracks and the courts. Changes are coming so fast that it is difficult to find "up-to-date" analysis. But several articles recounting the background of the period following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the ouster of his successor Mohamed Morsy are very helpful to set the context.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains two articles by well-informed commentators and scholars, Khaled Fahmy in Egypt and Juan Cole in the United States. Both date from before the ouster of Morsy, but after the unprecedented public protests that led to that event.

Several additional articles of particular interest:

"The unprofessional coverage of the 'coup'"
by Sara Abou Bakr
Daily News Egypt, July 7, 2013

The seven deadly sins of the Muslim Brotherhood by Khaled Fahmy
1st July, 2013

Egypt's "Revocouption" and the future of Democracy on the Nile
07/04/2013 by Juan Cole

"Egypt's coup de quoi!?" by Khaled Diab

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins related to Egypt, see

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

'We did not risk our lives simply to change the players'

By Khaled Fahmy, Special for CNN

July 3, 2013

Editor's note: Khaled Fahmy is the chairman of the history department at the American University in Cairo. Follow @khaledfahmy11 on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Two days before Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president of Egypt, I wrote an article for CNN calling for the Muslim Brotherhood to have a place in the postMubarak Egypt.

Back then, I wrote: "As a secularist, I am not in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power in Egypt, and I remain deeply skeptical of its political program, believing that much of it is vague and impractical. But as an Egyptian hoping for freedom and justice for my country, I am deeply convinced that the Muslim Brotherhood has a place within a free and democratic Egypt."

A year and half later, and after participating with my fellow Egyptians in an inspiring peaceful revolution, I went to cast my vote in the first free presidential elections Egypt had ever witnessed. I was not happy with either candidate: Ahmed Shafik, a hawkish representative of the former regime, and Mohamed Morsy, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. I invalidated my vote.

Still, given that these were free and fair elections, I recognized the winner, Morsy, as the legitimate president of Egypt. Even though I never believed that he or his organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, had a solution to my country's woes, I accepted the result of the vote, and prepared myself for the hard work that needed to be done over the coming four years, his term in office, so that we could have a chance to topple him in the next presidential elections.

All of this changed six weeks ago. At midnight on May 18, 2013, I went down to Tahrir Square to sign the "Tamarod" (rebel) campaign petition calling on Morsy to step down immediately. And on June 30, I marched with millions of other Egyptians in the largest demonstrations our country has ever witnessed reiterating the same demand: Morsy has to step down.

What changed?

What happened in Morsy's first year in office that forced me to change my mind and decide to rebel against him? Are the millions of people who marched in the streets demanding his immediate resignation, including myself, bad losers who simply could not accept the result of the first free and fair elections Egypt has ever witnessed? Or are we revolutionaries who have seen some of the main demands of our revolution go unfulfilled?

Even though I had invalidated my vote, I had a sigh of relief that Shafik did not win the elections. He had pledged to adopt a policy of blood and iron to "cleanse Tahrir" of the revolutionaries. Had he won the elections, I thought, I would have had to join my fellow compatriots to hold on to our newly-won territory and to make sure that the demands of our revolution were fulfilled. Morsy's win, I thought, meant I could catch my breath and continue our struggle for a free and democratic Egypt, while keeping a watchful eye on the new president.

However, Morsy undertook a series of disastrous steps that made me question my briefly held guarded optimism. Morsy had won with a mere 51.7% of the vote. I expected him to understand the implications of this figure: he did have a mandate, but Egypt was divided and his prime duty would be to close its rifts. Morsy should have worked hard to include the opposition in the key decisions facing his troubled country. He should have tried to win the trust of the half of the nation that had not voted for his presidency.

Instead, Morsy adopted a hard line, exclusive approach and trusted no one but the most extreme of his group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The cabinet he chose and the governors he selected were either Muslim Brotherhood members or sympathizers of the iron-clad, clandestine organization. In a revealing speech, Morsy addressed members of the organization as "my family and folk," raising doubts among many Egyptians as to his true sympathies: with the country at large or with his secretive organization. And instead of reaching out to the center, he courted the fundamentalist salafis on the extreme right. Crucially, this resulted in a constituent assembly which was dominated by Islamists and which ended up drafting a deeply flawed constitution.

Still, I considered Morsy to be my president.

Throughout the fall of 2012, Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood launched an all-out war against Egypt's judiciary. As a student of this institution, I recognize the Egyptian judiciary's venerable history but also realize that, like many of Egypt's institutions under Mubarak's long reign, it has suffered from nepotism, corruption and ineptitude. But the president and his group were convinced that the judiciary was out to get them, so they launched a coordinated attack aiming to bring it into line.

They dismissed the Prosecutor General (akin to the U.S. Attorney General), ordered their followers to lay siege to the Constitutional Court and drafted a law sending to retirement more than 3,000 judges whose sympathies were suspected of lying with the former regime. The culmination of this pogrom against the judiciary was a constitutional coup in November 2012 in which Morsy declared himself to be above the law and his orders to be immune from any judicial oversight. With no sitting parliament and with the judiciary under a ferocious attack, we had a dictatorship in the making.

Still, I considered Morsy to be my president.

Throughout the first year in his term of office, Morsy showed little respect for or tolerance of the opposition, repeatedly accusing it of being in the pay of the feloul, a derogatory term in Egypt which literally means remnants of a defeated army, but which has come to refer to members of the former regime. Instead of accepting that the job of the opposition is to oppose, and that of the government to govern, he blamed his own shortcomings on what he believed was a conspiracy by the opposition to thwart his efforts and to bring about his downfall. Increasingly, he and his Muslim Brotherhood became more and more intolerant of all dissenting voices. Thus, they allowed their followers to lay siege on the "Media City", a congregation of studios of independent TV stations at the outskirts of Cairo. They drafted a draconian law which would have curbed the work of NGOs and which is much worse than anything that Mubarak had ever passed. A freedom of information draft law, in which I personally had participated in drafting, was rejected by the Ministry of Justice by proposing an alternative text that makes a farce of freedom of information.

Still, I considered Morsy to be my president.

For many months now, Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood have been performing a slow and sinister "Brotherhoodization" policy, whereby senior, and not so senior, officials in Egypt's bureaucracy are being replaced by Brotherhood members. I do understand that in the wake of any elections the winning side is expected to make some changes to the administration so that the new regime can execute their policies. But these changes are typically limited to key positions within the administration, usually the first and second tiers, leaving the third and fourth ones intact to ensure stability and continuity of the civil administration.

Morsy has few friends as deadline looms

'Brotherhoodization policy'

The Brotherhoodization policy has gone way beyond what is normally expected in any healthy transitional process. In addition to the provincial governors -- who are gradually being replaced by Brotherhood members -- the Police Academy is reportedly being infiltrated by members of the clandestine organization. Within the Ministry of Education, replacements have reached the level of school principals. And the new Minister of Culture has replaced the head of the Cairo Opera House, dismissed the head of the Cairo Ballet Company, the head of the Egyptian Book Authority (the largest government publishing house) , and the director of the National Library and the National Archives. The new appointees have no credentials except being members or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Still, I considered Morsy to be my president.

What prompted me to rebel against Morsy and forced me to decide that he was no longer a legitimate president -- no longer my president -- is not anything he did, but two things he did not do, namely, bring the army under civilian control and undertake a serious process of security sector reform.

I am a historian of modern Egypt, and for the past 25 years, I have been working on the history of these two specific institutions: the military and the police. I have come to realize the enormous cost paid by the Egyptian people in founding what are two crucial pillars of any modern state. I have also come to the conclusion that -- without subjecting the military to civilian rule and without undertaking a serious effort to reform the Egyptian police -- our bid for freedom, dignity and social justice will always be thwarted.

When our revolution broke out on January 25, 2011, millions participated for different reasons. There were those who rebelled against endemic corruption, and there were others who aimed for a more equitable distribution of wealth. My personal cri de guerre was curbing the power of the army and subjecting it to civilian rule, and reforming the Egyptian police. Along with millions of my compatriots, I marched in the streets of Cairo and risked my life in Tahrir to achieve these two goals: subject the army and its secretive budget to parliamentary scrutiny and ending the endemic torture within Egyptian police stations.

Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood have miserably failed to tackle either of these two lofty goals. Most crucially, the constitution which was written by the president's organization and their other Islamist allies failed to subject the military budget to parliamentary oversight, stipulate that the minister of defense be civilian, or end the flawed process whereby civilians are tired in front of military tribunals.

Similarly, Morsy has taken no measures whatsoever to reform the security sector. He failed to understand the significance of the revolution being launched on January 25, which is Police Day, the date having been carefully chosen by the youth organizers to send a clear message that we demand to live in a country with no torture. All proposals to reform the sector were forcefully snubbed by Morsy's government. Not a single police officer accused of torture under Mubarak's long reign has been brought to justice. The culture of impunity within the Ministry of Interior has not been rectified. And torture continues to be practiced in Egyptian prisons, jails and other places of detention.

Personally, the turning point came on April 24, 2013. On that day my driver's cousin, Wael Hamdi Rushi, was killed in the Heliopolis Police Station. He had had a fight with a shop keeper who summoned the police. The police came and arrested Wael with his brother. In police custody, he objected to the way they were treating his 14-year old epileptic brother. So they smashed his head against the wall until he died, hanged his body from a rope in his prison cell and called his mother to watch him dangling from the ceiling. Wael was 19.

Values of the revolution

Putting an end to police torture and curbing the power of the military are not easy matters. But neither is risking one's life in a revolution. We launched this revolution not only to have free elections, but to have a new Egypt in which we can live in dignity and freedom. Regrettably, our first democratically elected president in Egypt, one who owes his position to a revolution that he did not launch nor did his organization believe in -- except in the eleventh hour -- clearly does not believe in the values of this revolution.

Winning with the slimmest margins, he found himself confronted by a stern judiciary, a hostile press, a powerful army and a corrupt police force. An unenviable situation, it is true, but he had the revolution behind him. Had he turned to us, we would have helped him tackle the army and the police, not overnight it is true, but we were willing to fight on. Instead, he chose to direct his wrath against the judiciary and the press, while letting the army and the police off the hook.

We did not launch this revolution nor risk our lives only to change the players. We wanted to change the rules of the game. That was the mandate we gave to Morsy. He has failed in this crucial task, so we no longer recognize him as a legitimate leader. He has broken the terms of the mandate. And our revolution continues.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Khaled Fahmy.

How Egypt's Michele Bachmann Became President and Plunged the Country Into Chaos / direct URL:

Jul 1, 2013

By Juan Cole

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi may or may not survive Sunday's massive protests, organized by the youth Rebellion (Tamarrud) Movement. They are, nevertheless, a milestone in modern Egyptian history and a warning to him about his arrogant and highhanded style of governing from his fundamentalist base. Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, represents the equivalent of the American tea party in Egyptian politics—captive to the religious right, invested in austerity and smaller government, and contemptuous of workers and the political left. In his first year in office, the nation's first freely elected head of state has squandered Egyptians' willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt. He has acted like the president of the somewhat cultish Muslim Brotherhood, rather than like the president of the whole country. Here are the major errors he has made, which have polarized Egypt and created a severe crisis that some observers worry could turn into a civil war.

On taking office in summer 2012, Morsi did not appoint a government of national unity. He named no politicians from other major parties to important cabinet posts, nor did he reach out to the revolutionary youth. Although he made a neutral technocrat, Hisham Qandil, his prime minister, he put members of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in charge of key cabinet posts. He thus created the impression that he was trying for a "Brotherization" of the government.

Despite Egypt's sagging economy, Morsi did not make stimulating it his first priority, and instead tried to please the International Monetary Fund with austerity policies, rather on the model of the Mariano Rajoy government in Spain. The Brotherhood's class base is private business, whether small or large, and Morsi has been distinctly unfriendly to the demands of labor unions and to those of the public sector, which account for half of the country's economy. In 2009, economists such as Paul Krugman warned that Barack Obama's stimulus was far too small. Morsi, steward of a much more fragile economy, put forth no stimulus at all.

Once he became president, Morsi had an opportunity to address the inequities in the constitutional drafting committee, which was disproportionately in the hands of fundamentalist Muslim Brothers and Salafis, marginalizing liberals, leftists, women and Coptic Christians. He had promised that the constitution would be consensual, but that body was highly unlikely to produce a widely acceptable organic law for the nation. Morsi let the unfair composition stand, and he appears to have been afraid that it would be struck down by the courts (it finally was, long after it mattered, in the spring).

In November 2012, Morsi abruptly announced on television that he was above the rule of law and his executive orders could not be overturned by the judiciary until such time as a new constitution was passed. He seems in part to have been trying to protect the religious-rightdominated constitutional drafting committee. His announcement enraged substantial sections of the Egyptian public, who had joined to overthrow dictator Hosni Mubarak precisely because the latter had held himself above the rule of law.

In response to the massive demonstrations that his presidential decree provoked, Morsi pushed through a constitution that is unacceptable to a large swath of Egyptians. Even though two dozen members of the drafting committee resigned to protest key provisions of the draft constitution, which they saw as back doors for theocracy, Morsi accepted the Brotherhood/Salafi draft and presented it to the nation in a countrywide referendum. Egypt's judges, who are supposed to preside over and certify the balloting, went on strike, but the president forged ahead anyway. Only 33 percent of voters went to the polls, many of them supporters of the president. The constitution was passed, but much of the country clearly was uncomfortable with it. Morsi's promise of a consensual document was hollow. The referendum could not be certified as free and fair by international standards.

All the trouble Morsi caused by announcing himself above the law and ramming through a controversial constitution with some theocratic implications caused a new round of demonstrations and instability, which harmed Egypt's prime fall-winter tourist season. Tourism represents 11 percent of the Egyptian economy and employs more than 2 million professionals, but travelers looking for pyramids, not protests, have stayed away the last two years. In 2011, tourism was off by a third. Even as visitors began coming back this spring, they spent less money than they would have three years ago, since hotel and other prices have fallen. I was told by Marriott employees in Egypt when I was there in early June that visitors are now mostly going to enclave sites such as Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, not to Cairo and Luxor on Pharaonic tours. They said that tourism from the Gulf oil monarchies was moribund (Morsi has bad relations with the United Arab Emirates, and besides, many Gulf travelers had been trying to escape the stifling atmosphere of fundamentalist governments in Egypt's easygoing cabarets, many of which have closed or canceled belly dance performances). The falloff in tourism revenue has cost Egypt billions in income and foreign currency reserves. The Brotherhood, made up of religious fundamentalists, appears not very interested in the tourist sector, which depends after all on liquor, cabarets, beaches and bikinis or on foreigners' fascination with ancient Egyptian idolaters—i.e., on everything Muslim fundamentalism stands against. The instability also harmed foreign investment, even from the Gulf oil states, since no one wants to build a tourist hotel or office building that may not make money under Brotherhood policies.

The collapse of tourism and the lack of private investment caused Egypt's foreign currency reserves to fall from $36 billion to $15 billion in only two years. Because the foreign reserves were the tool used by the Central Bank to defend the value of the Egyptian pound, it suddenly lacked the ability to prevent devaluation against the dollar. Since early in the last decade, the pound has been allowed to float against other currencies but the float is "managed." The decline in value of the pound caused food and diesel prices to rise (Egypt is a net importer of food because it covered its best farmland along the Nile with concrete in order to urbanize). A third of Egyptians live on $2 a day, and they are very sensitive to food and fuel price inflation. Morsi is widely now thought to have been more interested in winning political victories over his opposition and promoting the interests of the religious right than in getting the economy humming again.

Once the constitution was approved, Morsi moved to create the fiction that he had a functioning legislature, packing it with Muslim Brothers. The lower house of parliament elected in fall 2011 had been struck down by the courts, since the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis had run party candidates for most of the seats set aside for independents (one third of the total), and these party candidates easily defeated unknown and poorly funded independents. Morsi abruptly appointed 90 members to the previously largely ceremonial upper house, a significant number from the Freedom and Justice Party and its allies or fellow travelers of the religious right. He then declared that the upper house could independently legislate, even in the absence of the elected parliament, and even though only 7 percent of its seats were elected. The religious right began crafting legislation. The courts struck down the upper house in June, though to no great effect.

Last month, Morsi suddenly appointed 17 provincial governors (governors are appointed, not elected, in Egypt, which is one of the things wrong with Egyptian politics). Several of them were Muslim Brothers or Salafis, and one was a member of the al-Gama'a alIslamiya, a former terrorist group. Adel al-Khayat was appointed to govern Luxor, the site of the Valley of the Kings and a major tourist destination. The Gama'a had conducted a terrorist strike there, killing dozens of tourists in 1997. Luxor was not willing to forgive the Gama'a, and demonstrators demanded that the appointment be withdrawn. Al-Khayat resigned last week. Again, that Morsi was using his position as president to turn the Egyptian government over to the religious right, and sometimes to its most extreme wing, frightened and angered liberals, leftists, Coptic Christians and women.

Morsi's various decrees, announcements, policies and appointments have created apprehension among millions of Egyptians that his primary goal is deploying the power of the state to impose religious fundamentalism on the country and to ensconce his Muslim Brotherhood permanently throughout the government and the judiciary. The fear of liberals concerning Muslim fundamentalist groups had long been that they would behave as the German National Socialists or as the Stalinist Communists had, participating in elections only until they won, and then arranging for a one-party state thereafter. There is no evidence that Morsi has such a design, and he did try to schedule parliamentary elections in April, but the plan was struck down by the courts because he did not consult them on the enabling legislation. But Morsi, given the widespread fear of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, had a responsibility to go out of his way to allay those anxieties. Instead, he reinforced them at every turn. Egyptians have been galvanized and politically mobilized by the events of the past 30 months, and refuse to be quiet in the face of what they see as incompetent government and unfair Brotherization. Morsi so far has refused to get the message, secure in the support of his base and the legitimacy bestowed by winning the June 2012 election. Whether he finally demonstrates more flexibility in the aftermath of the recall movement against him will determine whether Egypt returns to prosperity or faces more years of instability.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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