By Geneive Abdo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Geneive Abdo is a fellow at the Stimson Center and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution. She is the author of "The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of Shi’a-Sunni Divide." The views expressed are her own.
In overthrowing Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s military, the judiciary, and the secular-minded revolutionaries in central Cairo just extended the political life spans of Islamists across the Middle East.
The Muslim Brotherhood, once at the vanguard of worldwide Islamist political and social movements, failed miserably in their year in power. Most likely, President Morsy’s term in office would have met a natural death during the next presidential election.
Instead, the coup has placed the Brotherhood in the uncomfortable but longtime position it had been in for decades — as the victims of a repressive, dictatorial state.
The coup has also empowered other, more socially conservative Islamist groups, whether or not they might be aligned with the Brotherhood.
The Salafists, in particular, stand to gain from the growing intensity of the broad-based Islamist movement as their vast social networks inspire popular support, and some Salafists are able to take the high ground as the true leaders of the faithful. The Brotherhood, meanwhile, could find itself more reliant upon the Salafists — adherents to a strict interpretation of the Islamic texts — if it wants to win future elections.
By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The views expressed are his own.
When Egypt’s army toppled the Muslim Brotherhood from power last week, it also delivered a punishing blow to Hamas in Gaza.
Fallen President Mohamed Morsy was one of the last remaining friends of Hamas after the group broke from the Iranian “Axis of Resistance” last year. Unable to stand by while the Iran-backed Syrian regime mowed down tens of thousands of fellow Muslims in Syria, Hamas left its Damascus headquarters. As punishment for this defection, Iran cut the purse strings.
Predictably, Hamas turned to Morsy’s Egypt, along with Qatar and Turkey, for patronage. This Muslim Brotherhood triumvirate, for the last year, provided financial assistance to the terrorist organization that conquered the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, while also working assiduously to bring it out of political isolation. These three countries represented a tripod upon which Hamas, a group that is heavily dependent upon foreign assistance to survive, was tenuously balanced.
By Fareed Zakaria
There is jubilation in many quarters of Egypt and beyond over the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood. And it is true that President Mohamed Morsi's government was a disaster in many dimensions. The Brotherhood ruled in a manner that excluded large segments of the society, used and abused the law and overreached. Perhaps as important, it was utterly incompetent, steering Egypt's already dysfunctional economy into the gutter. It had become wildly unpopular, with millions who had supported it now actively opposed. The Brotherhood was almost certain to be roundly defeated in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Had it failed politically, electorally and democratically, that would have been a huge boost for the forces of liberalism and reform in the Arab world. It would have sent the signal that political Islam may be a heartwarming, romantic idea but is utterly unsuited to governing–that mullahs can preach, but they cannot manage an economy.
Instead, the great danger of what has happened in Egypt is that followers of the Muslim Brotherhood will once again become victims, gaining in stature as they are jailed, persecuted and excluded. And some of them will decide that democracy is a dead end.
By Islam Al Tayeb and Elly Jupp, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Islam Al Tayeb is a research analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Middle East, and Elly Jupp is a research associate at IISS-Middle East. The views expressed are their own.
When people took to Egypt’s streets in 2011, they demanded not just freedom and social justice, but also bread. Indeed, frustration with high levels of poverty, unemployment and meager economic opportunities were a major trigger for the initial protests. A little more than a year into his presidency and it was clear Mohamed Morsy had done little to improve Egypt’s perilous economic situation. He has been duly swept from office, but whatever government comes next is left with the same challenge of balancing the competing demands of the Egyptian economy and the country’s people.
On one side, the Egyptian people are demanding that key commodities, principally fuel and food, continue to be subsidized. On the other, international financial institutions insist the subsidies should be cut. In the meantime, terms have still not been agreed for a desperately needed $4.8 billion IMF loan, with the International Monetary Fund insisting upon reductions in subsidies as part of an economic reform plan, even though Morsy’s government appears to have been correct in predicting that cutting them would prompt outrage among cash-strapped or unemployed Egyptians.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens about Egypt’s future in this special web extra taped today.
Haass: So much of the conversation has understandably been about the military, and whether they are willing to be a midwife to democracy, or about the Muslim Brotherhood, and whether they are willing to forgo violence in the street and give traditional politics another chance.
But just as important is the opposition. The opposition over the years in Egypt has shown itself capable of doing two things. One is protesting – and we have seen that in spades the other day. And the other is boycotting. Often political opportunities would come along and they would say they want no part of it. Well now they have that rare second chance, or third chance. Are they going to show a willingness and ability to organize, to essentially enter the political sphere not as a rally, not as a protest, but as an organized political movement – maybe one or more parties – and contest for power, share power, govern. And I think that is as big a question as anything hanging over 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.
On GPS today at 10 a.m. and repeated at 1 p.m. ET: A special live show on the unfolding developments in Egypt.
First, Fareed gives his take on the military’s decision to remove Mohamed Morsi from the presidency and what it means for the country moving forward. And he also looks back on one of his best known essays, The Rise of Illiberal Democracy, in Foreign Affairs.
Then, Fareed speaks with former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass.
By Christian Whiton, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Christian Whiton is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.’ He was a State Department senior advisor from 2003-2009. The views expressed are his own.
That’s twice Washington was caught slack-jawed amid revolution in the world’s biggest Arab-majority state. But don’t blame the Obama administration exclusively for twice being on the losing side of events in Egypt. Reality in Egypt has also eluded Beltway Republican foreign policy mavens and America’s dysfunctional and distracted intelligence bureaucracies. That makes shaping events in Egypt nearly impossible.
The first shock for Washington came in January 2011, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanding secular democracy filled town squares. According to Washington and its $80 billion-per-year intelligence bureaucracy, these people did not exist in the Middle East. The choice there was supposedly between corrupt strongmen like Egypt’s 30-year president Hosni Mubarak or repressive Islamists like those who run Iran and populate Muslim Brotherhood parties around the region.
Secular liberals were as rare as unicorns and supported by only a small number of Egypt’s urbanites – or so the story went. And yet there they were: mobs of young Egyptians not demanding Islamic law and clerical rule, but accountable government with democratic laws and institutions.
By Sahar Aziz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sahar Aziz is associate professor at Texas Wesleyan School of Law and a member of the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association (www.earla.org). She can be followed on twitter @saharazizlaw. The views expressed are her own.
Egyptians have made more history in the last two years than in many decades past. They welcomed military rule only to waste 15 months pushing them back to their barracks. They turned out in record numbers to vote for a new parliament that was later dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court. The first democratically elected president took office on June 30, 2012 only to be deposed by the military after barely completing his first year in office. Dozens of new political parties have been formed, most of which are inept at campaigning for popular support outside of Cairo and Alexandria. And a new constitution was passed through procedurally questionable means that ultimately led to its current suspension.
All the while, the sacrifices of young people and women were rewarded by excluding them from official political processes, party leadership, and government institutions by the military, the political opposition, and Morsy’s regime.
With every step toward democracy, mistakes were made that provide important lessons as Egyptians develop the political maturity and experience needed to effectively self-govern, and the current political crisis highlights six particularly important lessons at this critical juncture in Egypt’s history.
Military rule is anathema to democracy. Military governance is the death knell of democracy irrespective of the military’s purportedly good intentions. Not only are initial promises of short-term rule quickly broken, but the military is simply unqualified to govern a nation of more than 80 million people of whom about 25 percent live below the poverty line. Nor is the military a democratically elected institution that represents the will and needs of the diverse Egyptian electorate.
After wasting 15 months of precious post-revolutionary time pressuring the military out of civilian governance, Egyptians simply cannot afford another protracted political battle with a military that starts out as a protector but quickly becomes authoritarian.
Get elections right the first time. Passage of a parliamentary election law riddled with unconstitutional provisions is fatal to all parties. After decades of fraudulent elections based on election laws that guaranteed the National Democratic Party’s (NDP) a political monopoly, a new election law was rammed through by the military with nominal civilian input. Despite warnings from legal experts, parliamentary elections were held prematurely, with political parties taking more than their fair share by running members for seats preserved for independent candidates. When a legal challenge was presented to the Supreme Constitutional Court, it had no other option than to strike down those provisions that denied constitutionally mandated equal opportunity and access to political office for all Egyptians.
While the court’s far reaching remedy of dissolving the entire lower house of parliament called into question their political neutrality, the blame for a poorly drafted election law falls squarely on the military regime and those supporting its rule after the revolution.
A properly drafted election law based on the input of non-partisan legal experts would have saved Egypt months of political and judicial crises and could have avoided the military coup currently underway.
Do not make the constitution the handmaiden of politics. When then President Mohamed Morsy issued a presidential decree in November 2012 that placed himself above the law in order to prompt a public referendum on the new constitution, he permanently tainted his credibility. His politically shortsighted, not to mention illegal, move sealed the fate of what could have been a legitimate roadmap for centuries to come. Even if Morsy’s intent was to shorten the period of a legal vacuum arising from the absence of a constitution, his regime should have had the foresight to see the forest from the trees.
A constitution viewed as illegitimately passed, notwithstanding its substantive strengths, is of little value. The few months invested in engaging with a fractured political opposition and informing the public about key issues under debate would have been a small sacrifice in light of the grave consequences of yesterday’s military coup.
Do not assume all appointed officials are diehard loyalists. While few government institutions were left untouched by the NDP’s pervasive corruption, not every former government official was a Mubarak loyalist. Each public entity had its die hard supporters, many of whom were in leadership positions, but many government officials were pragmatists who kept their mouths shut in order to keep their jobs and provide for their families. Though morally weak and beneficiaries of financial corruption, they can be converted into following a transparent and democratic system imposed by the demands of the people.
Hence, calling for mass termination of public officials and judges, especially when they possess much needed skills, is a recipe for chaos. Despite the oppositions’ valiant efforts for systemic reform, many simply do not have the knowledge or skills to implement their lofty ideals. It is well worth the time to establish transparent procedures to weed out the irreparably corrupt and rehabilitate those willing to follow new rules developed to serve the people.
Do not underestimate the former regime’s ability to sabotage the revolution
Egyptians are fully cognizant of the Mubarak regime’s mass theft of the public treasury. For more than three decades, a class of business and political elite stole billions of dollars from a nation that desperately needed the funds to fulfill its potential to become a regional leader in various industries. But instead of invest in the people; illegitimate leaders took massive kickbacks, granted public contracts to their cronies, sold themselves public lands at rock bottom prices, and persecuted anyone that challenged their authority.
This corrupt class of folool, or Mubarak loyalists, is still deeply entrenched in every aspect of the economy, and they will stop at nothing to sabotage any new system that not only repossesses their stolen wealth but holds them criminally accountable for their financial and political fraud.
Egyptians are no Longer willing to sacrifice democracy for stability
The most important lesson for all current and future politicians is that Egyptians have been forever changed by the 2011 revolution. No longer will they be used as pawns by political leaders, even if democratically elected, who engage in illegal governance tactics. Their strong commitment to self-governance, as demonstrated in the latest round of mass demonstrations, has become a permanent fixture in the Egyptian political landscape. Elected politicians, opposition parties, and military leaders alike should take heed that any future attempts to exploit mass protests to their political advantage will ultimately fail.
With every mistake made, Egyptians are becoming more politically mature. They are no longer satisfied with lofty rhetoric unsubstantiated by action plans that incorporate their interests. They are willing to return to the streets when the public interest is disregarded in political processes and national dialogues.
But the cost of mass protests is high for the nation’s economy and further delays rebuilding a nation crumbling after a series of brutal dictators. To make protests a permanent substitute for fair and free elections, national dialogue, and professional advocacy is to place Egypt in a perpetual state of uncertainty instead of a sustainable democracy.
In the end, it is Egyptians that have the most to gain from lessons learned and the most to lose for mistakes made. For their sake, let’s hope the learning curve is steep.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
As we watch these protests around the globe, we should keep in mind that the distinctive feature of the American system is actually not how democratic it is, but rather how undemocratic it is.
What do I mean? Well, we have three co-equal branches of government and the one with the final say on many issues, the Supreme Court, is composed of 9 unelected men and women. The American senate is the most unrepresentative upper house in the democratic universe, with the exception of Britain's House of Lords, which is utterly powerless. California's 38 million people have the same representation in the Senate as do Wyoming's 576,000. State and local governments battle federal power constantly. Private businesses and other non-governmental groups are also part of the mix.
Now there are aspects of this system that many Americans don't like – especially the abuse of the system by largely invented practices like the filibuster – but the basic system of checks and balances, as the famous phrase goes, has worked well.
The form of government that came out of the French revolution, by contrast, is one of absolute sovereignty, centralizing all power at the top. Since that revolution, France has had many upheavals and changes in its regime. It went through two monarchies, two empires, one proto-fascist dictatorship, and five republics before it got to the present regime. The United States, by contrast, has had a continuous constitutional existence since 1789.
By Fareed Zakaria
In Egypt, we see the results of an unfortunate dynamic produced by decades of dictatorship. Extreme autocracy produced, as its counterpoint, extreme opposition. As the regime became more repressive, the opposition grew more Islamist and obstinate, sometimes violent. Arab lands have been trapped between repressive regimes and illiberal political movements, with little prospect than that from within these two forces, liberal democracy might break through.
Morsy and the Brotherhood had the opportunity to break this vicious cycle — to be the force for democracy and for a liberal order with a separation of powers and a constitutional government. That was the basis of the Justice and Development Party’s success in Turkey, until recently, when 10 years or success and three electoral victories went to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s head. But for that, Morsy would have needed to be a different kind of leader.
Egypt's top military leader has announced that President Mohamed Morsy has been removed from power. The move followed massive anti-government protests as demonstrators massed in Tahrir Square to express frustration with Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood. But what happens next? Fareed speaks with CNN and shares his thoughts on how the U.S. should respond, whether this is a “soft coup” and where Egypt may be heading.
What does it say to you when you hear reports such as the major state-run newspaper in Egypt, Al-Ahram, apparently taken control of by the Egyptian military?
Well, it tells us that the Egyptian military has very large equities in this whole thing. Remember, this is a country run by the military for seven decades, ever since Nasser in the 1950s. It has enormous power and economic privileges. Of course it’s worried about the country. But it's trying to make sure, among other things, that its power and privileges stay intact.
It puts the Obama administration in a bit of an awkward situation. On the one hand, the U.S. wants to support a democratically-elected president of Egypt. On the other, the U.S. clearly has not been very happy with some of the policies of this leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was democratically elected, albeit by a narrow margin, 52 percent to 48 percent. What kind of influence does the president of the United States, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state have on what's happening on the streets of Egypt right now?
It is a very complicated situation, very tough for the Obama administration. You want to support democracy. But this has been a democratic leader who has governed badly, who has abused power, who has ignored the minority, and it has produced a street protest.
So the American ambassador gave us an interview in which she said we're against military intervention. We think that would be the wrong idea. Some people criticized that here because it was seen as supporting Morsi. On the other hand, it may have stayed the military's hand in the sense of preventing a kind of outright coup, and what you're seeing, perhaps, is a more soft or gentle version of that. They are talking about new elections. They are talking about a civilian head of government.
On the other hand, Obama then tried to present Morsi with an option, which is, you promise fresh elections and that can diffuse the situation. So you see them trying to thread this needle, support the democratic process while recognizing there's this huge street opposition.