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Debate: Mursi’s ouster was not a military coup | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egyptians hold portraits of military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reading “Come down Sisi” as they gather in Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 5, 2013. (AFP)

The fact of the matter is that before the announcement of the Egyptian military’s decision to depose Mursi, there were crowds in the streets across the country. More than 22 million people came out to demand early presidential elections.

The military decision can be seen as an affront to constitutional legitimacy, according to the constitution that was active at the time. However, the presence of popular legitimacy cannot be ignored. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets—twice as many as those who voted for Mursi in the elections.

These people went out in rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood before the Egyptian military made a move.

Millions went out because they saw that Mursi had not fulfilled his duties to be a president to all Egyptians. They expressed this in writing by signing the Tamarod (Rebellion) petition that called for a withdrawal of confidence in the president of the republic, and the holding of fresh elections. They expressed this in action as well, taking to the streets before the eyes of the watching world.

Therefore, we are facing the will of the people, while the 2012 constitution—which was drawn up by the Muslim Brotherhood themselves—begins by emphasizing that “the people are the source of authority,” and that the government draws its powers from the will of the people. Therefore, there is a constitutional basis to legitimacy through the will of the people.

The Tamarod movement, which was the genesis of the former president’s ouster, can be summarized in the fact that Mursi made promises to the electorate which he could not keep when he took office last year. Therefore, he broke the bond between himself and the electorate who voted for him.

In this manner, we can look at the army’s intervention as being against constitutional legitimacy, but we cannot ignore the fact that it happened in response to the will of the people, serving as an expression of popular legitimacy.

Here, we stand before a very important point: The proof that what happened was not a military coup can be seen in the fact that the army did not assume power. A military coup would mean, quite simply, the army assuming political authority and ruling the country through a military council or government.

We have instead a president who had been the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, while a constitutional declaration was issued to announce an interim presidency. This declaration stipulates the executive, legislative and judicial powers, and how they are implemented. Egypt is today governed by a government of civilians, while a committee of legal professors and political figures will be appointed to amend the constitution. Therefore, we are governed by civilian rule, not military rule.

I recall an article by Thomas Friedman in which he described the events in Egypt as being akin to “a coup that is not a coup,” and, therefore, everyone who looks at the event inside and outside Egypt. can see that there is a paradox: Yes, there was a decision to remove the former president, and this decision was made outside constitutional legitimacy. However, it was an expression of the will of the people, while at the same time, the army did not assume power. Those who ultimately assumed power were civilians.

I think that the presence of Mohamed El-Baradei as vice-president will change the international take on what is happening in Egypt, particularly due to his global influence and reputation. All this will help completely change the West’s stance, and I think that the world will support the political process in Egypt, largely thanks to Baradei’s presence.

However, this goes beyond the West, of course. There are major countries in the east, such as Russia, China and Japan. All these will not be slow to support the change in Egypt, along with the Arabs too, of course.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, was invited to the political consultations currently taking place the Republican Palace, but rejected this invitation. It said that the consultations in this framework were tantamount to approving the decision to remove Mursi, which both the political party and the Muslim Brotherhood organization reject. Therefore, they are now outside the ongoing political process in Egypt.

The absence of the Brotherhood, however, will present a problem. As long as the Muslim Brotherhood are not satisfied, Egypt will have problems. The Brotherhood are a powerful and large political faction which is capable of causing the government problems at any time, as they are doing today in some places by disrupting traffic and attacking municipal buildings and so on.

I think that this attitude will not change unless the current Muslim Brotherhood changes and a new, moderate leadership that cares about the organization’s future, takes over. The course currently being pursued by the Brotherhood leadership will almost certainly finish the organization.

The situation needs a new leadership, away from the group known as the Qutbists (in reference to Egyptian Islamic theorist Sayyid Qutb). It needs a leadership that is able to understand political development in the country and deal with this flexibility, enabling the Muslim Brotherhood to save itself, and continue to play a role in Egypt’s political future.

The counterpoint to this piece can be read here