Five quick takes on the Egyptian crisis

During the last ten days, I’ve been running from a demonstration, to a television set, to my desk in order to write a news report. Unfortunately, I was not able to give my opinion on the deeply controversial latest developments in Egyptian politics. Since I don’t have now a lot of time to elaborate either, here you have 5 quick takes on the crisis:

-Was this a military coup?

Yes. Morsi’s government was overthrown by the armed forces, which after this move, arrested the leaders of Morsi’s political party and cracked down on pro-Morsi media. I adjusts perfectly to any definition of a coup d’Etat. However, it seems clear that it was supported by a large part of the population. Probably, by the majority. But that does not make it less of a coup.

-Was it a wise military coup?

Not really. A coup rarely brings anything good to a country. And I am afraid this will not prove to be an exception. Morsi should have been defeated at the ballot box. The coup does not bode well for the creation of stable and legitimate democratic institutions in Egypt. Any party losing elections in the future will have a big temptation to disrupt the government in order to shorter its life-span. Why should you wait four years when you can get rid of your opponent in a few months?

It is true that the by the end of June country was going through a difficult crisis without an easy exit. However, with a little imagination, it was possible to find some find some kind of compromise between the government and the opposition. For instance, the celebration of a referendum on Morsi’s removal. Sure, neither Morsi nor the opposition supported this idea. But this is the reason why it could have been a solution that avoided civil strife.

-Was it a spontaneous coup?

I doubt it. I suspect that the army had already taken the decision to overthrow Morsi much before the big demonstrations of 30-06. I don’t know if there was a conspiracy, that is, whether the Defence minister, Abdelfattah al-Sissi, coordinated with other parties to stage a successful coup. But there were many people who could have volunteered for it, such as the police, the intelligence services, some media moguls, the grand sheikh of Al Azhar, and NDP politicians or businessmen -NDP is Mubarak’s banned party-.

-Does this mean Morsi is innocent?

Not at all. Morsi and his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, are the prime responsible for their downfall. Their arrogance made them underestimate the strength of their adversaries. Morsi took on and alienated too many sectors of the Egyptian society: secular parties, Christians, judges, policemen, some ranks in the army, etc. In addition, their greedy search for power made them break their promises to rule by consensus and to consult other political parties. Before, the elections, Morsi said he would be the president of all the Egyptians, but ultimately, he came out to be only the president of the Muslim Brotherhood. Not even the president of all islamist currents.

-Are we heading towards a civil war?

I don’t think so. The chances of a civil war are overblown by sensationalist or ignorant media outlets. The Muslim Brotherhood does not possess the logistics or the popular support to launch an insurgency against the Egyptian state. Some jihadist may feel legitimated to step up their campaign against the Egyptian authorities, especially in the Sinai. A few hard-core Islamists may feel pushed to take up arms. But that will not be the choice of the Brotherhood leaders, since that would only sink its already damaged popularity. They may try to disrupt the political process for a while, but without engaging in massive violence. However, they will end up reaching a deal with the army, which would be coherent with their pragmatic political praxis in the last decades vis-a-vis the authorities.

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