The January 25 protests that reached their climax on February 11, 2011, were surprising in terms of their size and political consequences, resulting in the toppling of the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. The same applies to the protests that erupted on June 30, 2013, despite the signs of restlessness among the general public. This second wave of protests resulted in the toppling of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
One year has passed since last year’s protests, which in just three days resulted in the ouster of Mursi after a turbulent year in office amid deep social divisions. This is not to mention the frictions between the Brotherhood and several forces in Egyptian society and state institutions. All of this was happening at a time when there were clear signs that decision-making had fallen into the hands of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, rather than the presidency.
When Mursi assumed office, nobody expected that the term of the first Brotherhood-affiliated president would end within one year. On the contrary, many predicted that it would be the beginning of an epoch of political Islam in the region represented by the Brotherhood, the most organized and experienced of all Islamist groups. It was thought that the Brotherhood had decades, or even a century, ahead of them in power.
This was clearly shown by the political map from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to the Gaza Strip. Therefore, the fall of the mother organization in Egypt was both thunderous and shocking. Nevertheless, the countdown to the collapse of the Brotherhood began earlier, after the disparity between the Egyptian people and the Brotherhood regarding key concepts, such as the state and the social contract, increasingly widened. Mursi’s detachment from the public was evidenced in his speeches, which he used to open by greeting his fellow “brothers” instead of—as is expected from a president in the twenty-first century—his fellow “citizens.”
There has been much talk about the Egyptian military’s intervention, which came in response to massive protests demanding Mursi’s ouster. A debate continues in the west over whether what happened was a revolution or a military coup. Such an attitude is understandable in western political culture, which rejects the involvement of the military in politics. But in reality, Egypt is a special case. This is what the west cannot understand. Amid signs of the country slipping into what seemed like a civil war, the Egyptian military did not have the luxury of standing idly by. The Egyptian public and the military have enjoyed a historical relationship based on trust, which perhaps dates back to the time of Ahmed ‘Urabi, a 19th-century nationalist Egyptian officer who led a mutiny that developed into a popular revolution against the monarchy in power at the time.
Perhaps the ideal scenario would have seen Mursi leave following a defeat in early elections or a referendum—a proposal the Brotherhood brushed off. The military did not have the luxury of time, given the country’s rapid deterioration into a state of potential bankruptcy, a development which would have opened the door to total chaos with catastrophic consequences for the country’s 90 million people and the entire region.
The period that followed, with all its incidents, is history now; It is for historians to evaluate. The primary lesson to be drawn is that societies should have to pave their way on their own and take complete responsibility for their future, given that they are most familiar with their own conditions. Several countries—such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait—stood firmly with Egypt, which has thus far achieved two key elements of the post-Mursi road map: drawing up a constitution and holding the presidential elections that brought Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to power with a popular mandate.
History never goes backward. Therefore, talk of Egypt making a return to a former situation contradicts the logic of history. Major social movements and transformations lead to changes in social behavior, and they bring about new situations. This means that what we are witnessing in Egypt is the unfolding of a new chapter of the history of the nation, rather than a return to a former reality.
Success, to a large extent, is related to the gravity of the progress made in terms of tackling the faulty economic situation. We may be facing huge challenges and problems ahead, but the frankness of the discourse of the new republic is cause for optimism, particularly as it is moving away from selling delusions to the people.