On the 30th June 2013, marches took place in Egypt to celebrate a year of President Morsi’s rule of the country. These marches, however, turned into political protests, organised by the Tamarod rebel movement, against Morsi and calling for an end to his volatile regime. The military threatened intervention if Morsi was unable to quell civil unrest and improve the situation in Egypt to which he asserted his position as the democratically-elected leader of the country and hence his right to remain in power. After days of violent clashes saw numerous casualties and fatalities, the military held their promise and seized power from Morsi provoking the start of a “transitional period until a new president is elected” (Defence Minister, Gen Abdel Fattah al Sisi). The events in Egypt have had a profound impact on the countries all over the world, primarily because the military coup that has occurred has evoked a feeling that there has been a crisis for democracy.
The protests occurred after a year of polarisation in society between supporters of the President and those discontent with his leadership of their country. Many have become disaffected with the government due to its apparent inability to deal with the enduring social and economic problems affecting the Arab nation. One can therefore sight the actions of the 30th June as a protest by Morsi’s opposition against a government which people felt had not been effective in dealing with the issues within society and thus calling for its end. Indeed, part of the democratic process is the right to political protest which is what the world saw in the early stages of the situation in Egypt. This, however, changed with army intervention and a surge of violence on the streets between protesters and loyal supporters of President Morsi.
The military’s seizure of power is the key element which has evoked a feeling that democracy has been suspended in Egypt – we are seeing a popular revolution being taken out of the hands of the people and into those running the most powerful institution in the country – the army. Moreover, the world has been shocked by the violence used by the military to quash any protest or disagreement to their takeover. Indeed, it is evident that sections of society were dissatisfied with Morsi’s government yet a military coup is a clear undermining of the democratic rights of the people – to elect a leader and for that leader to maintain power until a new leader is elected. It is not only unfair for those who supported Morsi but also for those who opposed him who have lost control of their protest and who do not necessarily support the new takeover.
So what can we learn from the crisis in Egypt? Whilst it seems like a very foreign situation to nations such as Great Britain, it must be remembered that the situation was born out of political instability – something which is not wholly alien to any country. Moreover, whilst political protest acts to support and strengthen democracy, military intervention does not. It is evident that something needed to be done in order to stop the country collapsing into chaos due to extra-parliamentary activity but a coup by the army seeks only to weaken democratic process and undermine the right to vote. Moreover, it also creates a sense of ambiguity for the future. Whilst the military say that an election will take place to replace President Morsi, the people of Egypt must be fearful that a repetition of events could occur. Hence Egypt needs to learn from the situation it has found itself in – the military takeover has done little to improve civil unrest and so in the future it must follow electoral processes if change is desired.