On June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets to voice their grievances against President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to consolidate power. As a result, Egypt’s political transition was reset by the military last week, with the ouster of the country’s first elected president, the dismissal of parliament, and the suspension of the constitution. For some, this is a renewal of the 2011 revolution. For others, it is perceived as a military coup that dismissed an elected government.
The latest round of mass protests were the culmination of the people’s frustration with Morsi’s attempts to amass power for himself and his party. Other grievances against Morsi included the country's worsening economic situation, the failure to work with the opposition, the suppression of free expression, and the Islamist underpinnings of a constitution that did not sufficiently protect the rights of women and minorities. Morsi was an incompetent and divisive president, and it is clear that many Egyptians lost confidence in his leadership. Whether his forced removal will be a step forward or a setback for Egypt remains uncertain, but recent repressive actions by the military are cause for concern.
The demonstrations were a reaction to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and do not necessarily reflect a shift in the popularity of Islamist political parties among Egyptians. As As’ad Abu Khalil points out, “It was easy to remove Morsi from power, but it will be far more difficult to remove the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] from society.” Those calling for the resignation of Morsi and celebrating the intervention of the military included a diverse cross-section of Egyptians, with varying views of what a future Egyptian government should be, from the liberal secular youth to the other Islamist parties such as Al-Nour, which began distancing itself from Morsi.
Roles have been reversed as the Muslim Brotherhood is now part of the opposition and the anti-Morsi coalition now enjoys greater political power. However, the military intervention welcomed by protesters is taking a worrisome turn. The Muslim Brotherhood’s fall from power has been met with a new round of repression including the arrest of its figures for “insulting the judiciary.” If members of this party have committed crimes, they should be charged and tried, but “insulting the judiciary” appears to be a trumped-up charge. The group is also being silenced by the shuttering of its media outlets.
As of Monday, the violence continued as soldiers fired upon pro-Morsi protesters, resulting in the death of at least 43 civilians and one soldier. These efforts to quell the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are disconcerting and reminiscent of the very actions of Morsi or even President Mubarak. Both camps are blaming each other for the violence. The divide between secularists and Islamist parties appears to be deepening, as Al-Nour, the second largest Islamist party, withdrew from interim government negotiations.
In order to build a new government, all Egyptian parties will need to be included in the process. The recurring cycle of violence and violations of civil liberties must end or such actions will pose a significant threat to Egypt’s future. This new uprising will not be able to achieve its goals if it excludes its opponents or remains silent as the military flouts the very human rights demanded by protesters. A successful post-transition government would enable power-sharing and dialogue between all parties reflecting the diversity of the nation. A new constitution is needed that guarantees the rights of citizens with the proper checks and balances on power. Hopefully, this new transition period will finally achieve a government that fulfills the aspirations of Egyptians.