July 7th, 2013
06:46 PM ET

What needs to happen next in Egypt

By Fareed Zakaria

The events in Egypt over the last week have been fascinating but also bewildering. Most of us don’t quite know what to make of them. Is what has happened a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s start with some basic facts.

The government that was deposed in Egypt was an elected government. Mohamed Morsy’s Freedom and Justice Party, won the presidential election, the parliamentary elections, and a referendum to approve a new Egyptian constitution. So there’s no getting around it – this was the party that represented the wishes of the Egyptian people as expressed through the ballot box.

On the other hand, the government ruled in an arbitrary and highhanded manner and in many, many cases, violated human rights and outlawed its political opponents. President Morsy announced that his decrees were above judicial scrutiny. He banned all members of the previous ruling party from participating in politics for life. He did little about attacks on Egyptian’s Christian minority. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsy was a lifelong member, had promised not to seek the presidency or a parliamentary majority and it reneged on both pledges, creating this new Freedom and Justice Party as a façade.

More from GPS: Bipartisan cluelessness on Egypt

In 1996, I wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs describing the rise of what I called “illiberal democracies” – elected governments that were abusing individual rights and freedoms. The Morsy government is a textbook example of such a regime. But it is important to note that the current system in Egypt does not look like one that is upholding liberty in any sense either. Indeed the more the arrests and crackdowns continue, the more it looks like the old Mubarak-military complex, crowned once more over the ashes of democracy.

This has been Egypt and the Arab world’s tragedy. These lands are caught between repressive dictatorships and illiberal democracies, and from this vicious cycle there does not seem much space for liberty to break out.

More from GPS: Six lessons for Egypt

What should the United States do to help the cause of freedom and stability in Egypt? Well, a suspension of U.S. aid would plunge an already bankrupt country into deeper chaos. But Washington should announce that it will continue its aid for a limited period, say two months, while it determines whether the new government is in fact moving to restore genuine democracy in Egypt.

More specifically it should ask for three things:

- An end to arbitrary arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood or any groups or people for political opposition. Also, the end of the crackdown on media in all forms.

- The writing of a new constitution through a process that includes all major voices in Egyptian life

- The scheduling of parliamentary and presidential elections in which everyone can participate, including and especially the Muslim brotherhood.

If these conditions are not met, than we have no alternative than to recognize the reality that this is not the restoration of democracy, nor a path to moderation and inclusion. This is a pretty-old fashioned military coup. And it should be dealt with as such.

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Topics: Arab Spring • Egypt • GPS Show • Middle East • Protests

soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Sean

    You will not have peace in Egypt or other Middle-East countries unless you separate between religion and state! There should never be any political party with religious background never!!!

    July 9, 2013 at 10:54 am | Reply
  2. Romka155

    Same Iraq and Africa , all the region are tribal , They will never understand each other.

    July 9, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
  3. NorCalMojo

    Hasn't CNN figured out that this guy has no clue about Islamic matters? He's an Indian Muslim, he doesn't know how the fanatics in the wider Islamic world think. He was foolish enough to believe the Arab Spring was a bunch of liberal students demanding human rights. Now he's an expert again?

    July 9, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
  4. Captain Blythe

    Wait a minute....

    Wasn't it Zakaria who said a few days ago "US should stay out of it"? Welcome to Schizo-ville, population 1.

    July 9, 2013 at 11:23 am | Reply
  5. NorCalMojo

    I think they should kill each other for a while and then blame the US and Jews.

    July 9, 2013 at 11:34 am | Reply
  6. Jack

    What Egypt needs more than anything is a Military that will pledge to incorporate and defend a new law for all Egyptians above all other laws. That law currently exists, it protects all citizens of a country, minorities and majorities.
    It is a law all must obey for it requires respect of the rights of all citizens. It is a universal law that all parties would want applied to themselves but that in turn means it is applied to all other groups equally. Send over a copy of the First Amendment. It is First and foremost for a reason.

    July 9, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  7. Johannes Ek

    This is what Fareed seems to say:

    "IF these conditions are not met, THEN we have no alternative than to recognize the reality that this is

    NOT the restoration of democracy, nor a path to moderation and inclusion;

    THIS IS a pretty-old fashioned military coup, and it should be dealt with as such."

    That's how it is though translitterated:

    'If these conditions are not met, than we have no alternative than to recognize the reality that this is not the restoration of democracy, nor a path to moderation and inclusion. This is a pretty-old fashioned military coup. And it should be dealt with as such.'

    Don't you think there's a BIG difference on making the last two phrases separate from the first opening IF – concession?

    Well, I don't know what's going on in publisher's mind, but I do think, and I think he should also note the difference.

    July 9, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Reply
  8. Rick McDaniel

    None of that will work, Zakaria, and you know it won't work.

    Wherever Islam goes, it tolerates no other religion. Your plan cannot succeed, because it IGNORES that basically, Islam is a dictatorial and controlling religion, that tolerates NO OTHER!

    As such, in a traditionally secular country, it is unworkable.

    July 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  9. amrazim9

    I need to comment above about point #3: "The scheduling of parliamentary and presidential elections in which everyone can participate, including and especially the Muslim brotherhood." THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN – EGYPT IS DONE WITH THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD – THEY ARE OUTLAWED.
    Which means #1:"An end to arbitrary arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood or any groups or people for political opposition. Also, the end of the crackdown on media in all forms." CANNOT HAPPEN EITHER – AS LONG AS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD CONTINUES TO BE FUNDED BY HAMAS GROUP AND CONTINUE TO HARASS THE PEOPLE AND THE ARMY – THE NEW GOVERNMENT THAT IS YET TO BE FORMED – MUST ABOLISH THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ONCE AND FOR ALL FROM EGYPT COMPLETELY!!!

    July 9, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  10. vegaspines

    All the failures that have happened with attempts to implement a democracy in various country's in the region have occured because there hasn't been an effort to implement one critical democratic priciple. The separation of church and state. I doubt that any Mulim faction would want to try it. It seems to be in the Muslim nature to intergate religion into government. Doing so will result in failure every time. Religion and politics just don't mix. They have to stay separate.

    July 9, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
  11. Rocky Fjord

    Fareed seems to assume that democracy as an ideal is beyond reproach. The Am founders also knew that democracy can be a tyranny as well. If people are ignorant or subject to prejudice, the govt they elect may be no better. The truth about democracy which is also its downfall, is that officials are not elected to represent good ideas or even the commonweal. They are elected to represent interests, and it doesn't take very long for the rich and powerful interests to assert themselves to be the interests that officials will represent. Besides, elected representatives are merely representing the people, not what the people want or need. Am represents corporatist interests, not the common good.

    July 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Reply
  12. thebeerdude

    Is Fareed gay? Let's figure this out in this forum. Don't be gay and state your opinion.

    July 10, 2013 at 12:31 am | Reply
  13. david

    maybe the USA will get lucky and these stone aged people will start killing each other!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 10, 2013 at 2:02 am | Reply
  14. TPatrick

    For Mr. Zakaria and all the others crying over the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood. Let me remind you that Hitler was a freely elected leader too. I am sure you would have been complaining over his ouster as well.

    July 10, 2013 at 10:42 am | Reply
    • eric TRUTH

      Nice job. So you're antidemocratic. Hitler was NOT democratically elected. Don't listen to internet myths and lies. He was elected in a corrupt system in a backroom deal.

      July 10, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  15. Tina L. Moore - Airwnd

    It must be the other than it's mother the only ancient in aspects that had the scale ................First or Second?

    July 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  16. Tina L. Moore - Airwnd

    with out my families blood that would not be possible for in these time we are involved. If the scale of fairytales back in the early writting would have displayed then the theory of the words "come from" would be specific too the actual familes for example.

    The twilight zone food shortages and the name of such machine during that time for thought when hydrations was________ via ie, military??? or there in the scale of stranger of types of aliens in the old testament!

    July 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  17. eric TRUTH

    It's funny how this article is completely undemocratic and 'AID' is only in name. It's really 'BRIBE to the military for control . No one knows really where that money goes. Only the CIA knows.

    July 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  18. Rimvydas Sliazas

    $1.3 billion of American aid to Egypt goes to the military, not to the Egyptian people. So how would cutting that aid hurt them? It seems the USA is more comfortable to have a friendly tinpot dictator in charge rather than a democratically elected president.

    July 11, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
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