Thursday, July 11, 2013

The New Algeria?

 I'm a fervent believer in both democracy and in keeping church and state strictly separate. In Egypt these two values were in conflict - if not war - when Morsi won the popular vote to become the country's first democratically elected President. It was soon clear that the Muslim Brotherhood leader was not going to hesitate to bring a more religious bent to the new constitution and to Egyptian public life. So a part of me cannot but be happy that Morsi is gone. Deposed by his own purblindness and an even larger popular revolt than Mubarak faced two years ago. My hope was that if religious parties again won a large vote share in the next Presidential and parliamentary elections, they would be more focused on economic development versus driving a religious agenda - taking a cue from Turkey's ruling party, the AKP.  The AKP is also mildly Islamist but took a softly-softly approach in the first ten years of being in power - since they faced an entrenched, arguably anti-democratic secular establishment (army, judiciary, elite). The AKP government had to deliver astounding growth ((Turkey's GDP per capita has tripled in nominal terms in the last ten years) before it was strong enough to enact religion-influenced laws without the danger of being over-thrown.

However, if today's New York Times article is right, and the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be banned once again - then it will put paid to the hopes of establishing a real democracy in the country. And the fact that the power cuts and gas shortages disappeared almost as soon as Morsi fell, leads me to believe that the army/secular establishment was hard at work behind the scenes to artificially create conditions that would bring a cross-section of people out into the streets. The people of Egypt have been had, I think.

A democracy that excludes the main Islamist party from public life will by definition be truncated. The coup has established a year as the time within which a government must deliver tangible improvements to be judged worthy of staying in office. And when the new government fails to deliver significant improvements - (as is likely - who can turn around a country battered by 60 years of despotism amidst a slow-growing world economy in 365 days?) - it will also lose legitimacy.

Real democracy requires allowing the Muslim Brotherhood an unfettered right to win elections (if they can), form a government and fail to deliver on the mundane things - over 4-5 years - that ultimately all governments are judged on, by voters the second time around. That would be the best way to demystify and defang the Islamist parties. Otherwise, what the Egyptians liberals will be left with, is another frozen peace - where they have social freedoms but no real political freedoms. Or if they're unlucky, they'll face an internecine conflict with the disenfranchised Islamists, a la Algeria.

No Egyptian should want that.


Anonymous said...

I believe that Morsi and the MB were aiming for a Iranian type theocracy. They had already elected their "Supreme Leader". I also think that once they had established themselves as the rulers of Egypt, they would soon have changed the constitution to outlaw anything and everything they considered to be "Un Islamic" such as criticizing the govt, or it's leaders. What Egypt really needs is a separation of Religion and State. With total freedom of religion for all. If you want to pray five times a day. Do it. If you want to pray all day and all night, you can do that too. But don't tell others what to do or not to do. Do not pass any laws that consolidate religion. Shabaz

Lifetune said...

I agree that that was a risk. That the MB would use elections to gain power and then subvert democracy. But seeing that the Army remains all-powerful in Egypt, I think the coup option could have been exercised much later - once it was crystal clear that the MB was either incompetent or anti-democratic. As they say in Option theory - you shouldn't exercise an option until you absolutely have to.

Lifetune said...

Thanx for reading and for the comment, btw. :)

Blue said...

I believe that governing bodies should not be categorized as Islamic or Anti Islamic or moderately Islamic but as democratic or non democratic only..!