Tue, Jul 09, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Egypt’s coup threatens democracy and regional stability

The revolution that last week ousted their first democratically elected president in favor of military rule has left 86 million Egyptians facing an uncertain future

By Omar Ashour  /  The Guardian

The powerful felol and police force were quite happy to capitalize on the legitimate anger of the non-Islamist forces as well as on the general street anger at then-president Morsi, for various social and economic reasons.

What happened next was simply an annulment of 14 nationwide, free and fair democratic electoral rounds and two national referendums on a constitutional declaration (March 2011) and a constitution (December last year). All of those elections had consistent winners; some of them are in jail now. They also had consistent losers, some of whom gave speeches about “democracy” and “justice” during the declaration of the coup — from behind General al-Seesi.

RISK OF CIVIL WAR

So what happens next? Well, political scientists are familiar with a pattern: When elected institutions with some support on the ground are removed by force, the outcome is almost never friendly to democracy. Outright military dictatorship, military domination of politics, civil war, or a mix of all are all possibilities.

The worst scenarios for Egypt this year are a repeat of Algeria of 1992 or a Spain of 1936. In both cases, about 250,000 people were killed in dirty civil wars, sparked by a group of generals staging a coup against a democratic process. Both coups had civilian politicians, religious leaders and significant crowds on their side (mainly from the losers in the democratic process).

A less bloody scenario is Turkey in 1997, when a group of generals from the National Security Council sent a memo to then-Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, of the Welfare party, asking him to resign. Erbakan’s government was removed, but, unlike the coup of al-Seesi in Egypt, the parliament was not dissolved and the constitution was not suspended. Moreover, offshoots and figures affiliated with Erbakan’s Welfare party were allowed to run in the following elections. And in 2002, the Justice and Development party, one of the offshoots, won the largest percentage and is still democratically ruling Turkey.

However, this is not the way the coup in Egypt started. The parliament was dissolved, the constitution was suspended, the leaders of the winning party were arrested, their homes were searched and the probability of banning the Muslim Brotherhood and its coalition partners cannot be ruled out.

The shadow of Algeria in 1992 looms. There, the full-blown civil war did not start right after the coup in January, but in September 1992, nine months later. If al-Seesi and his junta behave like Khaled Nezzar in Algeria or General Francisco Franco in Spain, we are likely to see an escalation in armed confrontations between the junta and the president’s loyalists. This can have disastrous regional and international consequences.

Egypt’s population is three times that of Algeria in the 1990s and more than four times that of Syria. Unstable Libya and Sudan are on the borders and so is Palestinian Gaza and Israel. All sides in Egypt have their international and regional allies and patrons, and they will be asking them for help.

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