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Friday, 05 July 2013 00:00

Egypt's path to democracy

Mohammed Morsi's removal from the Egyptian presidency was as inevitable as it was necessary in light of his refusal to recognise the scale of popular rejection of his policies.

The unprecedented people's mobilisation in the streets of Cairo and other major cities indicates that Egyptians were not prepared to accept his government's incompetence and sectarianism.

The president's intransigence even in the face of the armed forces' 48-hour ultimatum smacked of the behaviour of his predecessor.

Like Hosni Mubarak before him, Morsi believed that US support would guarantee his political survival, notwithstanding the huge popular revolt against his regime.

David Cameron's official spokesman voiced imperialism's dissatisfaction with the turn of events in Cairo, insisting that Britain always condemns "military intervention in democratic systems."

Morsi was certainly elected by a majority of Egyptians a year ago, but to pretend that the poll reflected a democratic system is far from convincing.

The Mubarak dictatorship had squeezed the life out of Egyptian democracy, which was reborn in the mass protests in Tahrir Square led by trade unionists and supported by the country's young people.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which underpins Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party, is a long-established organisation that projects a conservative version of Islam and a socially and economically reactionary political model.

Despite repression under Gamal Abdel Nasser's progressive nationalist regime and the pro-imperialist autocracies of Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, the brotherhood retained its identity and following.

It was best placed in last July's presidential election campaign, under what was still effectively martial law, to mobilise its forces and carry the day.

While democratic forces urged the formation of a constituent assembly before holding a general election, Morsi and his cohorts, who had convinced Washington that they posed no threat to Israel or US interests, pushed home their advantage.

Once elected, the president forgot pre-election pledges to govern for all Egyptians.

He ignored the plummeting living standards of poor people, many of whom voted for him, as rampant inflation ravaged their meagre incomes while power cuts and fuel shortages stretched their patience beyond endurance.

The president sabotaged national unity by failing to protect religious minorities from violent attacks.

Equally, he used his majority to disregard the views of secular Egyptians by approving a constitution in November that reflected Muslim Brotherhood priorities rather than those of the people.

While demonstrators in their millions thronged city streets and the army was preparing to act, Morsi spoke to the nation in a wooden speech that rejected change or compromise on the basis of his "legitimacy" - a word he used 198 times in his address.

As the Egyptian Communist Party stressed, "all state institutions derive their legitimacy from the people's will."

Morsi and his organisation forfeited the trust shown in them last July not only in light of the government's record but also because their intransigence risked societal breakdown and massive loss of life.

Democratic forces are by nature opposed to military coups, but the line-up of political and religious leaders behind the armed forces leadership, united behind a road map for change, illustrates that this was less an illegal seizure of power than a pre-emptive strike against tyranny, sectarianism and underdevelopment.

Britain's labour movement should support their Egyptian sisters and brothers in their efforts to produce a civil democratic constitution and a government that respects the hopes of workers and young people.

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