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On June 3, the Egyptian army overthrow the first freely elected president of the country, Mohamed Morsi. They did so in unity with representatives of several different groups within Egyptian society: the Grand Imam from Al Azhar, the Pope of the Coptic Church, a spokesman from the opposition, and a youth leader representing the Tamarod grassroot movement, which ignited the massive demonstrations on June 30. However, this fragmented landscape underscores the lack of unity that has characterized the opposition during Morsi’s time in office. Is it realistic that the once-hated military can ensure national unity among these disparate factions?
Few of the Egyptians expressing themselves on the social media, such as Tweeter and Facebook see the events of June 3 as a military coup. Reactions reveal that many see it as a people’s coup. One woman writes: “…this was not a military coup. This was the first #PEOPLESCOUP in history. #Egypt.” Supported by others on Facebook, some examples from the community group, Cairo Scholars: “It is a revolution not a coup”, “What happened in Egypt is NOT A MILITARY COUP (…)”, “Welcome to the second Egyptian revolution”, “(…) President Morsi of Egypt has not been ousted by a military coup but by the will of the people of Egypt (…)”.
Others do not care what it was–they are just glad that the Muslim Brothers are not in office anymore: “Coup or not, they were a failure, unfair, inciting violence, hatred and killing, I am happy they are gone, I can’t hide it, I can’t deny it….”
But can anyone really deny that what happened yesterday was a military coup? Should people ignore the fact that in several free, democratic elections during 2011 and 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood won more seats than the other parties? What about the many Egyptians who voted for Mohamed Morsi and still support him and his politics; will they ever believe in the legitimacy of democracy?
In other words, should we expect that events in Egypt will lead to a totally new understanding of democracy, an understanding that makes it clear that a ruling party can be overthrown at any time if enough people disagree with its politics? And what does this new understanding mean for the opposition?
In Egypt, opposition parties have not really played a major role under the rule of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. To many, both inside and outside of Egypt, they seemed disorganized and unprofessional. They refused to negotiate or try to drag Morsi and the Brotherhood in a more liberal direction. Instead they refused dialogue and withdrew from the negotiating table, thus leaving final decisions to the president and his supporters. Should people not demand more from opposition parties?
This current state of a disorganized opposition makes it difficult to see the solid, long-term alternative to Morsi. The religious leadership of Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, youth movements, and so-called liberals may have agreed on a temporary roadmap with the military, but what will happen after that? What will happen when the constitution is about to be redrafted or a new president is to be elected? Why should anyone expect the opposition to suddenly become more structured, with transparent programs and easy-to-understand agendas for reaching their goals? How will they solve the many challenges that Egypt and the Egyptians are facing, such as increasing unemployment, the failing economy, a lack of resources, prevalent sexual harassment, the need for educational reforms, etc.
While Egyptians celebrated Morsi’s ouster, numerous women were sexually harassed in the midst of the crowd. Additionally several people have died in clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters, and many have been injured. Such incidents show that the protests and celebration have not been solely full of joy and peaceful resistance–there have also been violent confrontations between people from different factions. This discord does not look promising for Egypt’s future democracy, which allows people to believe in whatever they want and share their points of view in a free and public way.
At the end of the day, the question is: do the Egyptian people have more in common than just their belief that Mohamed Morsi was a bad president? This leads back to the call for a social revolution, and the issue of whether or not the political discussion in Egypt can move beyond ideological arguments and debates over the Muslim Brotherhood or the role of the army. Egyptians must focus on common problems such as the economical crises, safety and social justice. If they manage to do so, we might see the fastest completed revolution in history. If not, future generations might discuss if there was a revolution at all.
Image credit: ikhwan.net via Flickr