Analysts and pundits inside and outside Egypt are deliberating and wondering what exactly happened in the country. People are asking questions such as: “Was it a coup d’état? What do the US and the world think of us?” Others are taking on the news channels and blogs, venomously rejecting the notion that this was indeed a coup. Guess what? Coup or no coup is truly irrelevant; it is only semantics. It is what it is, and I could not care less at this stage what the world thinks of it. The more important questions are why did this happen? And what implications does this have on Egypt’s future?
Too many missteps
President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood at large simply reaped what they sowed! A revolution that started by allegations of swindled riches and portrayed Egypt as a rich country embezzled by its previous corrupt rulers failed to deliver a single thing. In fact, with deteriorating living conditions, blackouts and fuel shortages, it has taken away some too.
Therefore, what happened was not personal. Morsi presided over this utter and complete failure. If it was Mohamed El Baradei or even Ahmed Shafiq at the helm, the exact same thing would have happened. I disagree that this was mainly a resistance to a particular ideology, but rather it was resistance to failure and deceit at large coupled with desperation. President Gamal Abdel Nasser era’s mantra of strong rhetoric and no results cannot withstand these days; people need tangible results, whether coming from an Islamist or a liberal.
While I do disagree with the removal of Morsi in this manner, it is futile to debate whether he really had it coming. The Brotherhood’s regime did put a full display of incompetence on all key issues, ranging from the economy, national security, democratic transition and foreign relations. Unfortunately, he provided the opposition with the ammunition necessary to take him down in this demeaning manner. Simply put, the Brotherhood tried turning a weak mandate into a full takeover while effectively alienating all other political players. The scene was reminiscent of how former president Hosni Mubarak once attempted to shut everything down in the 2010 parliamentary elections. Only this time, the Brotherhood had a thin mandate on hand; a mandate that was unfortunately unable to withstand the storm.
An obscure future
As jubilant crowds erupted with fireworks and celebrations, I am still holding my breath to see how this will pan out. While we have stumbled between left and right throughout the past 2.5 years, we are now walking a very thin line between right and wrong. It was once said: principles only mean something when you stick to them when it is most inconvenient. As a matter of principle, disposing of Morsi may have been the only option but that still does not make it the right option.
Let us, however, be a little more pragmatic about this. What has happened is already in the books and there is no reversal to this. The situation is still very fluid and could quickly degenerate into something ugly. We are constantly reminded of many such stories in history with not enough happy endings. Therefore, we need to reconcile now and not repeat the same mistakes committed post-25 January of demonising opponents and segmenting supporters: a trap which spelled the end for Morsi and his crew.
Most importantly, we must do what it takes to curtail the future occurrence of such brute force changes. The way to avoid this is to quickly build a system that grants wide representation to prevent another highly polarised situation that brought us to this point. Moreover, due process for impeachment proceedings must replace street movements. We must emerge from this as a stronger representative democracy. People need to do more than take the streets for a couple of days to topple a president. There is no sport in this anymore! We must engage heavily in the conventional world of politics.
If we do not take it upon ourselves to reconcile now and engage into a disciplined mode of politics, we can easily turn this into Pyrrhic victory; this is a victory with such disturbing costs that another such victory will ultimately lead to defeat. In short, we have many ways to get this wrong. I hope we can finally find our way because this time, we truly don’t have the luxury of time.