Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Debate: Egypt’s military did not have to intervene | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Supporters of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi sit guard outside a pro-Mursi sit-in area around Raba’ al-Adawya mosque, east of Cairo July 18, 2013. (REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih.)

When asked whether I support Egypt’s military intervention, my reply is that the statement issued by the Armed Forces’ General Command and read by Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Minister of Defense and commander of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), on Wednesday night did not mention the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the statement did not explicitly stipulate the ouster of legitimate president Mohamed Mursi at all. Yet different clauses of the statement suggested the surprise decision that the constitution would be suspended temporarily and that the head of the Supreme Court would assume the duties of the President of the Republic until new presidential elections could be held. According to all this, I suggest that a more apt question is: Doesn’t the ouster of a freely elected president by the military constitute a coup d’etat?

The direct answer to this question, in ordinary circumstances, is an unequivocal yes. Army Commander and Minister of Defense Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi suspended the constitution, which he swore to uphold when he assumed his post. In the first place, this represents an invalidation of any claimed legitimacy, and in fact even curtails the legitimacy of El-Sisi himself. It was also noticeable that the statement was issued by the General Command, not the SCAF, which that was only represented by the commander of the Marine Forces and two other members out of a total of 17. This, however, prompted many to believe some news reports that were leaked about a large number of senior leaders being dissatisfied with Sisi’s decision, most prominently commanders of the 2nd and the 3rd Field Armies. This is apart from the fact that, as far as the chain of command goes, Sisi should report directly to the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and president of the republic, Dr. Mohamed Mursi. Military traditions and customs in all military apparatuses across the globe stipulate that orders flow downwards—otherwise, what we are looking at is a coup.

However, this opinion is strongly objected to by the millions of people who took to streets on June 30 to demand Mursi’s ouster. These millions believe that they, by flocking to Egypt’s squares and streets to reject Mursi, have become the rightful owners of decision-making and legitimacy, and thus have the right to oust and appoint whomever they want. However, no matter how much they want to believe this, we must look at things clearly and impartially.

I also understand the stance adopted by millions of other Egyptians who uphold President Mursi’s legitimacy, and who now are taking to the streets of Egypt to protest. The objective of these millions is to let the opponents of constitutional legitimacy see that Mursi also has millions of supporters, and this number could get bigger. This was manifested in the huge number of people who took to streets earlier this week to demand Mursi’s return. These crowds were not limited to the Brotherhood or their supporters alone, and they were joined by a large number of Egyptians who want to stop the military from burying Egypt’s new democracy alive.

President Mohamed Mursi was the first freely elected civilian president in the history of modern Egypt since the end of the monarchist era and the declaration of the republic on June 18, 1953. He came after four military rulers. The first one was Gen. Muhammad Naguib, head of the Revolution Command Council (RCC), and he was appointed by the said council that continued to rule the country unilaterally throughout the transitional period (1952–1957). On November 14, 1954, the same council overthrew President Naguib and installed Maj. Gamal Abdel Nasser in his place. Later on, Nasser renewed his term by means of a nominal referendum, in which voting was limited to either yes or no, and he won with 99 percent of the votes. When Nasser died in 1970, he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat (Nasser’s colleague in the Free Officers Movement) after he won by 97 percent in a referendum similar to the ones held by Nasser. Sadat became the third Egyptian president and remained in his post until he was assassinated on October 6, 1981. Then came Lt. Gen. Hosni Mubarak, who ruled the country for nearly 30 years, with five nominal referendums being held in his favor. Mubarak was the only candidate in his first four referendums, but he allowed other candidates to stand in his fifth and last one. Nevertheless, he unsurprisingly emerged triumphant, winning a fifth successive term in office until the January 25 revolution forced him to step down and hand over power to the SCAF.

On June 30, 2012, Dr. Mohamed Mursi assumed the presidency after winning a majority—52 percent—of the votes in the runoff election against Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, who was being backed by numerous powers both inside and outside the country. This included army commanders, either out of desire to return the old Mubarak regime to power or simply to keep the presidency out of the hands of the Islamists.

Mursi’s priorities included completing and accelerating the construction of the institutions and pillars for a modern civil democratic state by drawing up a new constitution and electing a legislative council. Yet, the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of the parliament that was elected by 32 million people in a free and transparent manner. Then, the counter-revolutionary forces, together with their allies from leftist and liberal parties, were united in rejecting the constitution. This is despite the fact that the constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, a body that incorporated 100 members who were carefully selected according to parliamentary rules established and approved under the auspices of the SCAF in April 2012. In fact, this constitution was the best that Egypt has ever seen. Yet these groups launched a campaign to void the constitution although the people had approved it by a majority of 67 percent in a referendum.

The counter-revolutionary forces, along with allies from leftist and liberal parties, all hindered Mursi’s efforts, refusing to cooperate with him, fabricating crises, and encouraging protests and sit-ins. Production halted as a result and unemployment rates and debts soared. Furthermore, the police authority’s negative stance under his rule caused a lack of security to prevail in the country. As a result, neither his restless efforts nor his shuttle diplomacy across the world succeeded in attracting investors to Egypt. Besides this, fraternal Arab states declined to fulfill their promises of helping Egypt, something that eventually impacted the economy, devalued the Egyptian pound and brought more suffering for the people.

To sum up, Egypt’s military didn’t have to intervene, and their intervention can only be described as a military coup.

The counterpoint to this piece can be read here.