Sunday, 7 July 2013

President Morsi's eviction from power: yay or nay? An outsider's perspective.

The headlines of the hour: President Morsi, freshly elected leader of the new Democratic Egypt, has been ousted from power by the Egyptian military after only a year in office.

Not anymore, he isn't!
The crowds in Tahir square have been  delighted at the news, but - to the credit of Morsi's supporters - its hard to deny that this is a military coup; after all, it fits the definition pretty damn snuggly. However, rather than question whether or not it is a coup or not (it is), the questions people should really be asking is: can this be a good thing? Sure, a democratic government has been usurped, but it was done so with substantial support of the general populace, with anti-Morsi protests generally being insanely HUGE and reportedly outnumbering pro-Morsi supporters by a significant amount. At the same time however, the international community has had mixed reactions to the situation, with some - primarily nearby Arab nations - congratulating the protesters and praising the move, while others - mostly Western civilisations like the US and Europe - have advised caution and a rapid return to Democracy. (It should be noted here, by the way, that President Bashar al-Assad is amongst those praising this usurpation… while simultaneously crushing another, causing nearly 100,000 deaths while he's at it. Hypocrisy, anyone?)

So, are these turn of events a good thing or not, and for whom? Allow me, the clueless all knowing unimportant little idiot master of international politics, to irritate anyone who actually knows what they're talking about enlighten the ignorant masses of the world with my pointless gibbering wealth of knowledge.

I have all the solutions!
First, it should be noted that at the time of writing this is a constantly evolving situation; since actually beginning this post, its come to light that the army have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, raising questions about the Democratic process and free speech, but have also claimed that they would allow peaceful protests to take place amid anger amongst pro-Morsi activists and the Muslim Brotherhood announcing it would refuse to co-operate with the new regime. So, this is likely to be one of those things that is out-of-date from the moment it comes out.

That said, as it stands right at this moment, here is how things stand: President Morsi has been evicted from office, he and most of his presidential team have been placed under house arrest, the constitution has been suspended, and protests are ongoing from both camps; and things have become violent between the opposing groups.

So, now that we've got all of that out of the way, lets look at some of the factors that can be considered both good and bad about the current situation in Egypt, and finally answer the question: President Morsi's eviction, yay nor nay?

YAY: President Morsi was vastly unpopular.

The whole shenanigans that started these protests in the first place was in fact a petition calling for protests against the President. According to those opposed to the president, this petition ended up gathering 22 million signatures, or over a quarter of the total population of Egypt, the total being 82 million people. Even if you consider this to be an over-exaggerated number (as these numbers usually are over-estimated by supporters and underestimated by opponents), that is still a huge number of signatures; especially if you consider the fact that President Morsi was elected with half of that number.

Furthermore, while there certainly are pro-Morsi protesters, these are generally counted to be in the tens of thousands, compared to millions of anti-Morsi protesters. The numbers, it seems, certainly support the coup.

NAY: Egypt's first democratically elected president was usurped; and sets an uncomfortable precedence.

While yes, the petition got basically double the number of signatures than votes, the fact remains that President Morsi was elected in a free and democratic election, one that was recognised by the international community. The fact that this president was forced from office after only a single year - by the military no less - is substantial.

The fear that I have is: what if evicting presidents because they're unpopular becomes the norm in Egypt? While the protests certainly were huge, big protests happen all over the world; governments, in this economically fragile time, are bound to be unpopular. In France, for example, 73% of people are dissatisfied with President Hollande according to polls, but there is not even a whisper of people saying that he should be forcibly evicted from office. Similar figures of unpopularity can be shown for the British government.

The precedence this might set is what is known as the tyranny of the majority; a situation in which people can simply call upon the army to kick out whomever they wish from the government certainly wouldn't be a good thing.

YAY: President Morsi showed dictatorial tendencies.
Considering Morsi's current lack of employment, maybe
he should have read this.

Of course, before arguing that the masses might become a tyranny themselves, it should be noted that President Morsi's actions were… 'questionable'. Many of the concerns that people had about him were certainly legitimate; much of which we don't actually hear about these days.

The economy, for example, was doing terribly under Morsi. Worse in fact than under Mubarak, the former president before the Arab Spring, with unemployment rates souring and the national dept ever rising as Egypt increasingly relied on the likes of Qatar to lend them money. Morsi's ousting has caused increased optimism about Egypt's prospects for its future, certainly important for the largest Arabic nation on the planet.

There were also early signs that he wished to give himself more powers than one might consider to be rather dictatorial in nature: for example, when the military attempted to apply constitutional amendments to restrict the powers of presidency, Morsi cancelled these and ordered several senior military figures to retire.

The first true nail in the coffin for Morsi, however, appears to have been struck specifically on the 22 of November, 2012, when the president announced that he was giving himself sweeping powers, essentially making him immune to judicial review. This had an immediate and vast backlash; protests - obviously - erupted, major international organisations such as Amnesty International condemned the move, and the Supreme Judicial Council called it an "unprecedented assault on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings."  

Suffice to say, it was a pretty damned big deal.

Considering these factors, it may not only be considered a good thing that he was evicted, but perhaps even an inevitability; and it could possibly serve to teach future presidents of Egypts to take a less authoritarian approach to politics.

NAY: the military has shown dictatorial tendencies.

Well, ok, not technically 'dictatorial' tendencies, but it made for a nice irony considering the previous argument, ok?

In all seriousness though, there have been signs that free speech and democracy have been, to an extent, usurped with the recent actions of the Egyptian military; specifically towards Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters. Firstly, Morsi and his presidential staff, after being expelled from power have furthermore been placed under "preventive custody"; basically they've been put under political house arrest.

This is important. Technically speaking Morsi has not in fact been arrested under any charges; they are essentially arresting him under the presumption of guilt. Why is this important? Because that would mean the military is assuming that President Morsi is guilty until proven innocent, which could be considered is a violation of both Article 9 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and while not technically a legal document, its violation isn't something that should be taken lightly.

Furthermore, there has been numerous crackdowns upon the Muslim Brotherhood has commenced in Egypt: up to 300 arrest warrants for Muslim Brotherhood members have been issued, and numerous media channels either owned by or supporting the Morsi regime have been shut down; Al Jazeera, one of the world's most well respected news channels and winner of various awards for its investigative journalism, was raided by Egyptian security forces. Worse still, there have been reports of a possible massacre in Cairo Square, leaving 34 dead according to the Muslim Brotherhood.

These reports, frankly, don't exactly look like the actions of an aspiring democracy; while yes, the Muslim Brotherhood may not represent the majority of Egyptians, cracking down on a minority is still a clear sign of tyranny.


To be honest, I could probably make more arguments for both sides (Morsi was only barely elected with no real representation for left-wing/liberal parties; but at the same time, Morsi was only given a year in office, which isn't really enough time to turn around a nation recently racked by a revolution). However, this blog post would likely never end if I continued to find points, and I've made most of the major points I wished to make.

So, how do I conclude?

Truth be told, I really can't make a conclusion yet. Its far too early to decide whether this is a good thing or not. After all, the original Egyptian Revolution seemed like such a glorious and amazing thing full of hope at the time; the direct result of that revolution is the one we're having right at this moment. We lack the power of hindsight at this current state of time, and thus I'm going to remain on the fence regarding this coup until we can see the full picture later, after we've (hopefully) had another round of elections and another stable(ish) government in Egypt.

What I can say, however, from the latest news coming out from Egypt is that things aren't looking good from my perspective: despite their earlier promise to allow peaceful protests, recent reports about killings of pro-Morsi supporters doesn't lead credence to the military's current position of allowing democratic voices from both sides to be heard (though, it should be noted, currently reports about the killings are unclear; the military claims that they were attacked by terrorists, while the Islamist Al Nour party has called it a "massacre").

The situation continues to unfold; perhaps I shall return with another opinion at a later date.

Until such a time, you have been reading The Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Why Wendy Davis' abortion filibuster was wrong. (AKA: How to lose all your friends in a single blog post)

Well, I'm about to become extremely unpopular.

Metaphor for what I'm doing, right now. Why am I writing this again?
Firstly, some context is required. On Monday, a bill known as SB5 was voted on in the Texas Senate; it received an overwhelming majority of support. The bill would have implemented sweeping changes to abortion laws within the State of Texas, meaning that abortion would be outlawed after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and also applying vast new restrictions on how abortion clinics can get a licence. The bill, by the proposer's own admission, would have meant the substantial number of abortion clinics in Texas would have to close, meaning that many women would not be able to gain access to a clinic for abortions.

So, all in all, it was a pretty shitty bill.

Enter Democrat Texas Senator Wendy Davis, hero of the hour! Through a process known as filibustering, in which a Senator talks about a bill continuously to delay and prevent a vote from happening, Senator Davis successfully talked for 13 hours straight - without drinking, eating, sitting down or leaning, and staying on the topic of the bill for the entire time - and thus successfully preventing SB5 from passing, by going over the deadline for a vote to occur.

This filibuster has kind of exploded in the news;  numerous mainstream media sites such as the Rolling StoneThe Guardian, and manymany others jumped at the news story, many praising it as a victory for women's right and vaulting Senator Davis from an unknown politician to hero of the Feminist Left in Texas.

So, Hurray, right? Not so fast.

Yes, SB5 was a draconian bill that would have prevented the kind of legal, healthy access to abortion necessary in a modern society from reaching millions of women in Texas. No, I do not support the type of anti-abortion measures being pushed by the American right. Yes, the prevention of this bill is, probably, for the greater good in the long term of things.

However, its not the preventing the bill I have an issue with; its the method through which it was prevented that I have a substantial problem with. The filibustering part of this entire thing. In this case, the end result most certainly does not justify the means.

The argument can go both ways.
Heres the thing: filibustering is an entirely undemocratic, unconstitutional method of preventing laws and bills from being passed. It is a way to allow the opinions of a minority to prevail in face of substantial opposition

Filibusters have, in the past, been used to prevent (or attempt to prevent) extremely important landmark bills. Gun control is the latest example, in which just the threat of filibustering essentially halted the entire process. Worse, its has been used to try and prevent some of the Black Right's Movement's greatest achievements from becoming law: the famous Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, the workplace and any other public place, was filibustered (by the Democrats no less) for 54 DAYS.

Thats right: here we have a tactic that was once used to try and defend some of the most disgusting and reprehensibly racist elements of American society, and now mainstream media is praising its use to high heavens. I hope people understand why I'm not entirely happy about this.

And the fact of the matter is, in the majority of cases it is in fact the exact same media that is currently lauding high praise to Senator Davis, that are the biggest critics of filibustering in virtually every other circumstance.

"I'm allowed to have this metaphorical gun thanks to a filibuster!"
Take the Rolling Stones, that I linked to above, for example: in their article about the filibuster made by Wendy Davis, they describe her feat as "epic", and heap praise upon her in high mounds. The title itself, "Why Wendy Davis' abortion right filibuster matters" essentially endorses the filibuster tactic as something of a legitimate political force. And yet what did they have to say about the filibuster and gun control? Their tone couldn't be any more different. "The victims of Tuscon and Aurora and Newtown were betrayed today" they say, referring to the minority of Senators who prevented the gun control bill from passing thanks to - you guessed it - a filibuster.

This, suffice to say, is hypocrisy at its greatest. It seems that cheap political tricks are only allowed when it favours bills that we agree on. This is not what we should be standing for. Either the Left is against the filibuster, or for it. If a threatened filibuster marks a betrayal for those who want gun control, then, frankly, a filibuster against anti-abortion laws is a betrayal to those who wanted anti-abortion laws. Remember, a vast majority of the Texas Senate, who were democratically elected representatives of the people of Texas, voted in favour of this - admittedly, in my opinion, reprehensible -  bill. However, my opinion doesn't really matter in this particular case. Why? Because the majority of those in Texas wished for the bill to be passed: the bill was democratic. Filibustering it represents a denial of the wish of the majority, by the minority. YES, I agree that the bill shouldn't have passed. But that is ONLY MY OPINION. My opinion should NOT become law, and neither should the opinion of the minority. 

Fact of the matter is, a majority of Americans supported the 20-week abortion ban (although narrowly). We've therefore seen today the defeat of a bill through a filibuster, despite that not being the wish of the majority of people in the United States. While I couldn't find any numbers to support this, I believe the number of Texans - whom the bill would affect - who support the SB5 would be even higher, given it is a majority Republican state.

On a final note: yes, it is true that the Republicans did try to cheat the bill through via unlawful methods at the end. Yes, it is true that Republicans are guilty of using the filibuster more often than Democrats in the Senate, especially in recent years. However, this does not excuse the use of the same tactic by Democrats; regardless of who uses it, the filibuster is an undemocratic tool used to allow the view of a minority to prevail over the majority. 

I condemn the use of the filibuster by either party, or any party, including in my own country, the UK. This, sadly appears to separate me somewhat from other people whom may broadly share my political views.

Either way, you've been reading the Random Babbling of a Slightly Odd Student. Thanks!