The exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood from the political process in Egypt does not guarantee a process that will lead to a civil state because the military does not practice democracy.
One of the basic definitions of civilian rule among political science lecturers is that it is the opposite of military rule, following the maxim “Things are defined by their opposites.”
Military rule is where the military is in charge of the state, whether directly or indirectly, and where the army becomes the main pillar of the state which supports the government and ensures its existence.
Civilian rule, however, is based on civilian institutions where each institution specializes in specific duties, and all form the main structure of the state with its three independent institutions, the executive, legislative and judicial.
Civilian rule limits the role of the military to performing the task for which armies were established, which is to defend the borders and protect national security. The role of the army is limited in order to ensure it does not go beyond its serious role which requires high levels of training, which does not allow the army and soldiers to work in politics. Even vital decisions—such as declarations of war, peace and states of emergency—must not be in the hands of the army alone, but in the hands of the civilian political leadership, after being ratified by the legislature.
One of the most important features of a modern democratic state is the implementation of the principles of the rule of law and the constitution as the main reference point for legislation. It is also a state which protects people’s rights without discrimination, and clearly specifies the roles and duties of the three powers, and the roles and duties of the various institutions of the state, including the military. It also regulates the relationship between the institutions so that they do not interfere in each other’s work and regulates the relationship between the citizen and the state and its institutions.
Civilian rule pays much attention to the legislative authority, which in turn is elected by the people and creates laws that reflect the people’s demands and their will. The legislature also monitors the performance of the executive authority and holds it to account, and has the right to withdraw confidence from the government or any of its ministers according to the rules stated in the constitution, and also has the right to discuss the state budget, ratify it, reject it, or demand amendments.
The reasons to keep the army away from politics are many, including the importance of its military role, which requires total commitment because any failure would lead to disaster. They also include the fact that military institutions by their very nature do not understand democracy and their ranks are not attained by election, but appointment. Their behavior is governed by rigid hierarchies which demand total obedience, which contradicts the most basic rules of democracy.
It is well-documented that when the military rules, they became oppressors, and come to consider members of the political opposition to be working against their leaders and deserving of immediate punishment.
We have seen in recent events how Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi warned peaceful demonstrators in Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Al-Nahda squares to end their sit-ins, which was one of their human rights. When they refused, he sent in special units from the armed forces, supported by Interior Ministry forces, and broke up the two sit-ins by “excessive, extreme and unwarranted” force (according to a report by Amnesty International), which led to hundreds being killed and thousands injured.
The protesters thought they were exercising a right that was guaranteed by law and the Egyptian constitution, as well as the human rights charters which the Egyptian government had signed. The protesters insisted on remaining in the squares in protest at what they saw as a coup which removed the legitimate civilian president.
The army’s interference in civilian rule and in politics negatively affects its original task, and stops it performing its duty in defending the nation and the people.
The experience of the 1960s in Egypt is the best example to prove this point. During that era, the political leadership tasked the Egyptian army with resolving the crises which Gamal Abdel Nasser’s governments failed to resolve. When the streets of Cairo flooded due to the failure of the sewage system, the army was ordered to deal with the problem and assigned the engineering corps to the job. And when the transport problem failed, again in the capital, Nasser ordered the armed forces to repair the buses. Nasser even ordered the conscription a whole football team, Al-Ahly, when their supporters went out in protests against their defeats. He assigned the team a unit and a command base in order to give them better training and help them win matches.
Nasser even used the army to destroy his enemies. The military police arrested many Muslim Brotherhood members between 1954 and 1965.
There is no doubt that the fact the army was involved in these issues had a terrible effect on officers and soldiers, who were distracted by these tasks from carrying out the task of protecting Egypt’s borders, and even weakened the ability of the army as well as their military doctrine, contributing to their defeat in 1967.
Contrary to all this, the army was completely focused in its duties between 1967 and 1973, leading to victory in the October War.
The counterpart to this article can be read here.