Mursi's ouster may hit region

PEOPLE'S WILL: Protesters against president Mohamed Mursi in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Wednesday. The military announced that the president has been deposed and the Constitution suspended.


    Jul 05, 2013

    Mursi's ouster may hit region

    AFTER waiting for over 80 years, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood secured power when Mr Mohamed Mursi was elected president, but it can only blame itself for being ousted just 12 months later, analysts say.

    The Brotherhood labelled Mr Mursi's ouster a military coup but, to the millions of Egyptians who marched in the streets against him, the Islamists failed at democracy: they overreached.

    "Mursi was elected, but it's hard to ignore the ways in which the Mursi government was becoming autocratic," said Mr Michael Hanna, senior fellow at the Century Foundation. "The country was headed for some sort of meltdown, and it still might."

    The protesters became convinced the Islamists were using wins at the polls to centralise power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood far beyond their mandate.

    Even worse, for many of the protesters, the Islamists simply were not fixing Egypt's multiple and worsening woes.

    The Islamists "created many enemies and were fighting battles on different fronts at the same time", said political analyst Khalil Al-Anani at Britain's Durham University. "They don't have any friends."

    In the end - as was the case with predecessor Hosni Mubarak - the final arbiter of the "people's will" was the military.

    The face of that military was General Abdul-Fattah El-Sissi, who did not even utter Mr Mursi's name as he announced that the president had been deposed and the Constitution suspended.

    He was flanked by liberal leaders and religious figures, all who have felt threatened by the increasing authoritarianism they saw in Mr Mursi's administration.

    The military has also learnt a lesson from Mubarak's fall: For more than a year, the military ran Egypt, and being the government left its officers vulnerable to public outrage over economic, social and political problems.

    It quickly appointed Mr Adly Mansour, who had taken up his former job as the constitutional court's chief justice on Monday, as interim president.

    Mr Mansour, sworn in yesterday, used his inauguration to hold out an olive branch to the Brotherhood.

    "The Muslim Brotherhood are part of this people and are invited to participate in building the nation as nobody will be excluded, and if they respond to the invitation, they will be welcomed," he said.

    But the state media reported that Mr Mursi and other Brotherhood officials were placed on a travel ban, while others, including the head of the group's political party, were arrested. Mr Mursi is under house arrest, according to the El-Haddad newspaper.

    In addition, orders for the arrest of the Brotherhood's supreme guide, Mr Mohammed Badie, and the group's powerful deputy chief, Mr Khairat El-Shater, were issued.

    The damage to the Islamists' prestige risks reverberating across the Middle East. The lesson that the Islamists' extreme fringe may draw from this failed experiment in Egypt: Democracy, which many of them viewed as "kufr" - or heresy - to begin with, is rigged and violence is the only way to realise their dream of an Islamic state.

    "The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood will lead to dangerous consequences for this region, creating despair among young Islamists who could be radicalised," said Mr Al-Anani.

    Mr Mansour now inherits stewardship of a nation that is reeling from a sluggish economy and a political system back to where it had been two years ago, after the revolt that pushed Mubarak from power.

    As Mr Fareed Zakaria wrote in the Washington Post: "Arab lands have been trapped between repressive regimes and illiberal political movements, with little prospect...that from within these two forces, liberal democracy might break through."

    Only strong leadership can break this vicious circle. Whether anyone will rise to the occasion remains to be seen.