The ejection of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will likely divide the country into those who call it the toppling of a democratic government, and those who say there is more to democracy than elections.
Morsi was elected to power in June 2012 after mass protests prompted the military to eject longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.
The armed forces repeated their trick Wednesday, after four days of protests against Morsi that were even bigger than those against his predecessor.
Estimates put the number of protesters out against Morsi at 14 million, more than the number of people who voted for him.
Mohammed Morsi. (Yonhap News)
Members of the ruling coalition’s Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party were reported to have been arrested Wednesday night, along with Islamist TV anchors. The Associated Press reported that the Muslim Brotherhood’s TV station went blank.
Morsi called the move a coup. The military prefers more euphemistic terminology.
Announcing that it was ejecting the president, the leader of the Egyptian armed forces Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said that the government had failed to meet the protesters’ demands. The demonstrators had called for new presidential elections, accusing Morsi of refusing to listen to opposition voices and neglecting the economy to push ahead with an overly Islamist agenda.
Some suggested the tipping point came on June 15 when he attended a rally against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Many Egyptians objected to Morsi’s intensified Islamist rhetoric ― using words like “infidel” and “holy war” ― but perhaps more importantly to his devoting time to external matters rather than crime, jobs and other domestic issues.
But while many inside and outside the country will not mourn the ejection of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, its supporters see the ouster as the end of a legitimate government that it had fought to bring about for 80 years.
“This is my democracy, that I have fought for,” one Morsi supporter told the BBC. “Do I just live (with it) and go home? No. This is my chance.”
They say the military never gave Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood a chance to govern. Indeed, it has intervened several times.
The numbers of protesters on the streets show that the military was likely correct in its assessment that Morsi was no longer governing with the consent of the people, but it is questionable whether it should make that judgment.
In finally pulling the plug, it has created a situation in which democracy may not resurface, and worse, may lead to serious violence.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org