Commentary

Morsi's Ouster Shakes Egypt and the Region

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

In what has been described as a people-powered military coup, Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi has been removed from office. His removal sparked jubilation among those who had gathered in Tahrir square demanding his resignation, while Morsi’s supporters demanded his reinstatement as the only legitimate representative of the people’s will. With the situation becoming more volatile and more violent by the day, it is unclear what the immediate future holds for Egypt and the region.

For many looking for answers in what went wrong for Morsi, the one thing they can all point to is Mr. Morsi inability to broaden his support beyond his Muslim Brotherhood base.  For example, even though the coup was condemned by the Iranian government, Tehran Times’ Mir-Masoud Hosseinian is quite critical of the ousted Egyptian president, noting: “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....Morsi had the key to resolving the dispute in his hands. However, in his final televised address to the Egyptian nation, he used harsh language to criticize his opponents and even warned them that he would use violence to quell the protests.”

Similarly, writing for the Egyptian weekly Al Ahram, the Turkish columnist Aylin Kocaman believes “Egypt’s leader should have focused on people…. it was an advantage for Morsi to have come as a Muslim leader. He should have used that advantage by focusing “on people” rather than policies. He should have been unifying, have shown he was open to all ideas, and to have attached importance to love and affection. He should not have forgotten that for many, Islam brings to mind the fear of radicalism and should have been as libertarian as possible to quell that fear.”

Despite his detractors, Mr. Morsi continues to garner significant support both within Egypt and the region. Understandably, the Muslim Brotherhood, having become a target of the military itself, has rejected the legitimacy of the actions taken by the Egyptian military: “We declare our unequivocal rejection of the military coup against the elected President and the will of the people, and refuse to participate in any action with power usurpers. We strongly condemn violent action against peaceful demonstrators. We call on demonstrators to show restraint and commitment to peacefulness. We denounce repressive practices of the police state which have already included killings, arrests, restrictions on freedom of the media and closure of TV channels.”

In a fatwa issued recently, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian born cleric, criticized the intervention of the military in the political arena and urged that “Egyptians should support ousted President Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood and the military should withdraw from the political scene. Egyptian-born Youssef al-Qaradawi, one of the most prominent Sunni clerics in the Middle East, said in the fatwa posted on his website that the military's intervention to depose Morsy on Wednesday was against democracy and the constitution.”

The Arab News editorial has been equally critical of the military’s intervention suggesting in its headline that the democratic spring had given way to the ‘military chill’: “The military coup against President Muhammad Mursi has ended Egypt’s first real flirtation with democracy. The man Egyptians chose to lead them away from half a century of military dictatorship, has been ousted by the military machine that he found impossible to tame. It is hard to see how the fresh elections promised by the judge whom the generals have installed as ‘interim leader,’ will actually make any difference to the reality that this country’s democracy has been extinguished.”

Even for those looking at the geostrategic implications of the ousting of president Morsi, there seems to be little positive news, even though that truer for some countries more than others. In an op-ed for the Turkish daily Zaman, Sinem Cengiz believes the recent developments in Egypt will undoubtedly “shift political balances in Middle East…. Given Egypt's crucial role and central position in the politically fragile Middle East, the military coup that ousted the country's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, is likely to have a tremendous impact on the balance of power in the region....While the Gulf States, like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, have expressed their support for the Egyptian military's removal of Morsi, the fall of the Egyptian leader is bad news for countries like Turkey and Qatar....the fall of Morsi would also play into the hands of Israel, which was uneasy over the Egyptian president's support for Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has made major political gains in Egypt since the Arab Spring.”

The Turkish government has also condemned the ousting of the Egyptian president, leading some Turkish columnists, including Hurriyet Daily News’ Nuray Mert, to take issue with their government’s handling of the developments in Egypt: “So far, the PM and the government have not only condemned the army’s intervention, but also engaged in a political struggle in Egypt, so much so that Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians have expressed their faith in Morsi’s fight to return to power....We all know that there are political affinities and solidarity between the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nonetheless, the governments, on one hand, should act as representatives of the countries in terms of the national interest and consent while also acting in accordance with diplomatic rules.”

Given the stakes in what is happening in Egypt, developments there have been followed closely by the Israeli government and the general public. For some, Morsi’s autocratic turn and his subsequent ousting was predictable: “Though we do not know how the current situation in Egypt will ultimately turn out, the reality created following the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 was predictable, and raises a dilemma faced by supporters of democracy in any state where they are a minority....can one sustain a democracy in a situation where the majority is, at best, not committed to democracy, or at worst favors a non-democratic system?...In the case of the Muslim states the main problem is that few of them ever enjoyed true democracy, so that one cannot speak of democracy being restored."

Still, the volatility in Egypt begs the question what’s next. How does the Egyptian society move forward after such a polarizing and dramatic move? For Mohamed Fouad, writing for the Daily News Egypt, the answer is clear: “we must do what it takes to curtail the future occurrence of such brute force changes. The way to avoid this is to quickly build a system that grants wide representation to prevent another highly polarized situation that brought us to this point....If we do not take it upon ourselves to reconcile now and engage into a disciplined mode of politics, we can easily turn this into Pyrrhic victory; this is a victory with such disturbing costs that another such victory will ultimately lead to defeat. In short, we have many ways to get this wrong.”

And finally, a Saudi Gazette editorial urges all parties to come together, paying special attention to the efforts that are made to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back into the political arena: “The Egyptian people must come together to resolve their differences peacefully. This will not be easy in a country that is now so deeply divided. The army has tried to show goodwill by releasing two top Brotherhood figures briefly detained for suspected incitement. But it will take more than a few gestures to placate the Brotherhood which has been effectively pushed out of politics....Islamists vow to show by their numbers that the military made a mistake by taking out Morsi while the deadly confrontations have heightened fears of an all-out civil war that Morsi’s opponents had thought had been averted when he was removed.”


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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.