We have to be really careful these days to not let the media dictate our opinion. Most media outlets are controlled by a very few and those few do not like independence of anyone. They are also very influenced by those in political control and are co-operative with their desires. What unfolded and is unfolding in Egypt is a very good example.
These same newspapers and media outlets are lamenting the fall of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president and charge that it was a coup and the military did not care about the sanctity of democratic institutions. However when the U.S. almost pulled off a coup in Venezuela more than a decade ago but was rebuffed by a vigilant and aware Venezuelan nation, there was no such condemnation of those actions.
Those who examine the facts on the ground and look at the short-lived rule of Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood with a critical eye know that this was far from a coup. Anger against Morsi’s leadership was building up to a tipping point and far-seeing analysts saw this coming. The important factor to remember here is that the military alone can’t get tens of millions Egyptians onto the streets to remove a president they don’t like. 33,000,000 Egyptians took to the streets in peaceful but forceful demonstrations, 33,000,000! Military leaders were responding to events and the force of public opinion. Was the military happy to nudge the protests along and see the Muslim Brotherhood suffer a defeat? Yes, but the unpopularity of Morsi and the Muslim Broterhood was their own doing. This is the bigger picture that many in the media are missing, or neglecting to tell you.
Morsi was doing unpopular things and damaging the reputation of Egypt by calling for a holy war in Syria against Assad and threatening an unnecessary war against Ethiopia over a Dam Project. Many people believe the dispute over the Nile is resolvable through negotiations, including the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. If Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power, Egypt might have been dragged into two wars. So the question that should be asked in this instance is not whether an action is good for democracy but whether it is good for the country. Keeping Morsi in power any longer would’ve hurt Egypt, and for many Egyptians their country is more valuable and sacred than the concept of democracy.
Morsi’s opponents said he was responsible for the disastrous economic situation of the country and called him an authoritarian ruler. Morsi also broke his numerous promises about the ratification of the new constitution, his endless battle with the army generals and the judges of the judiciary continued unabated, and the establishment of a democratic and powerful Egypt remained an out-of-reach goal. A number of challenges, such as the rise of extremists and Salafists and the pressure imposed by Western and regional governments, which were trying to force Morsi to act in line with their interests in the new system, exacerbated the problems of Egypt’s first post-revolutionary government. This provided an opportunity for opposition groups — including the liberals, the secularists, Sunni Muslims outside of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood party, and religious minority groups — to unite against Morsi and start the Tamarrud (rebel) movement.
The day top generals met Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and spoke bluntly, telling the Islamist leader what he should say in a major speech he planned as protests against him intensified around the country. “We told him it has to be short, respond to opposition demands to form a coalition government, amend the constitution and set a timeframe for the two actions,” an officer present in the room told Reuters. “Yet he came out with a very long speech that said nothing. That is when we knew he had no intention of fixing the situation, and we had to prepare for Plan B.”
As tensions rose over the following days, Morsi remained defiant. In a final telephone conversation with armed forces commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the Wednesday before his confinement, the president laughed and made light of mass demonstrations against him, a military source said. “He just didn’t believe what was going on,” the source familiar with Sisi’s contacts said. Any hope that the bearded, bespectacled Morsi would call a referendum on his own future or go quietly, had evaporated.
A country should be led by its best men in a crisis and Morsi proved through his actions that he did not belong in high office. It took less than a year for the Egyptian people to recognize Morsi’s failings as a leader and they acted quickly to preserve their country. Morsi was not “ousted” by the military; he was overthrown by his people with the helpful aid of the military.
What we really should understand from this Egyptian experience, though it may be hard to believe in these cynical times, is that indeed popular mass protests can lead to unforeseen political change. Those leaders who have understood this have fared much better in resolving issues and staying in power.
Brazil’s leadership responded quickly to the massive protests by promising to dedicate the country’s oil wealth to education, health, and other government services. Erdogan and the current Turkish leadership only managed to survive because they have a sizable electoral base and they are managing a delicate peace process with its Kurdish minority so the protest movement was not as large as it could have been. Also, Turkey’s most powerful military critics are imprisoned.
Public opinion is not always the decisive factor in shaping political events, especially in a society used to a military dictatorship like Egypt, but angering tens of millions of Egyptians in a very short span as Morsi did surely didn’t help his cause against the military in his last hours. The lesson here is that the people, when they unite, do have power to change the course of political events. It has always been so, when people wake up and claim their sovereign power. The political leaders in the EU and the US should pay close attention. 40% unemployment by the 18-25 group, raiding people’s retirement accounts without consent, and failing to respond to persistent unemployment and social safety nets, while playing just to corporate and banking interests will come back to haunt, there is no doubt about that in the long run.