Columns 28.11.2016 07:30 am

Democracy is dead in Egypt

A picture distributed by the Egyptian Interior Ministry shows Mohammed Badie, supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Cairo, Egypt, following his arrest on August 20, 2013

A picture distributed by the Egyptian Interior Ministry shows Mohammed Badie, supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Cairo, Egypt, following his arrest on August 20, 2013

Tens of thousands of innocent people rot in jail, and terrorists affiliated with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda regularly set off bombs in Cairo.

Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, has been in prison more than three times as long as he was in the presidential palace, but his death sentence was quashed last week.

On Tuesday, the country’s highest appeal court also overturned his life sentence on a separate charge – but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be free any time soon.

Justice is not entirely dead in Egypt, but democracy is.

Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s coup destroyed Morsi’s elected government in July 2013, 1 400 Egyptians have been murdered by the regime.

The army was never going to accept the nonviolent revolution that overthrew former general Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year-old regime in January 2011: its officers benefit from its control over at least a quarter of the Egyptian economy.

But the military had the wit to bide their time, whereas the young revolutionaries were neither experienced nor united and began making mistakes.

Their worst was to fail to unite behind a single candidate in defence of a secular democracy. Instead, the presidential election of July 2012 ended up in a run-off between Air Chief Marshal Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak’s last prime minister, and Mohammed Morsi, the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Secular voters backed Morsi to give him a narrow victory in the second round.

The Muslim Brotherhood was a moderate Islamic party that had been tolerated under the Mubarak regime.

Its supporters were conservative rural voters and the pious poor and Monday 12 28 November 2016 it rewarded them by inserting more Islamic elements into the new constitution. Besides, Islamists believe making the country more “Islamic” will solve its problems.

It was far from wholesale Islamisation, but enough to panic the urban and secular young people who had led the revolution. In a stupid attempt to force the new constitution through, Morsi granted himself total executive power and began ruling by decree in November 2012.

After 10 days, he realised he had made a dreadful mistake and relinquished his special powers, but it was too late. In an equally foolish reaction, the young revolutionaries concluded Morsi was a dictator and began agitating for an early election to get rid of him.

Some even thought the army was their friend and would help them get rid of Morsi. So the anti-Morsi demonstrations grew through the first half of 2013 and on the first anniversary of his election on June 30, millions came out in the streets to demand that he quit.

The army moved at last and in days Sisi was in power and Morsi was in jail. In due course, thousands of the young revolutionary generation were also in jail: the latest estimate is 60 000 political prisoners.

The Sisi regime is far more brutal and repressive than any of its military predecessors, but its plans to welcome foreign investment, privatise the infrastructure and restrict the right to strike have lots of foreign support.

But under this regime, tens of thousands of innocent people rot in jail and real terrorists affiliated with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda rule over northern Sinai and regularly set off bombs in Cairo.

Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer

 

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