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 So, this is likely to be one of those things that is out-of-date from the moment it comes out.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.