One thing in Egypt is sure – it will not be the secular liberals taking power

When President Mubarak was forced from power in February 2011, many of the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square thought that the future of Egypt looked bright for the kind of Western secular liberal values many of them had championed.

Tom London is a London-based writer and blogger

When President Mubarak was forced from power in February 2011, many of the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square thought that the future of Egypt looked bright for the kind of Western secular liberal values many of them had championed.

Plenty of foreign observers thought so too.

However, the lack of broad electoral support for the views of those revolutionaries was very clearly demonstrated in the presidential election in 2012.

Only the top two candidates from the 1st round in May went through to the 2nd round in June. No candidate who was attractive to secular liberal voters came close to making it to the 2nd round which was contested between Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, who was the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak and closely identified with his regime.

Given the influence of Islam, centuries of authoritarian rule and the conduct of Western foreign policy in the region, it should be no surprise that Egyptian political culture is not particularly receptive to liberal views identified with the West.

It is not only their lack of electoral support that makes power a distant prospect for Egyptian liberals. It is also the part they have played in the events of recent days. They were the prime movers in the demonstrations which led to the army deposing the elected president Mohammed Morsi – an event they are celebrating enthusiastically.

They have thereby undermined one of the fundamental tenets of their own professed beliefs. In democracies elected governments should not be changed by military coups.

The fact that the liberals have supported this happening may prove disastrous for their credibility. In the New York Times, for example, there is an interview with Mohamed ElBaradei, who is described as “Egypt’s most prominent liberal”. ElBaradei defends the coup, the large scale arrests of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood and the closing down of certain TV stations.

Of course, the argument is made that Morsi was somehow ‘not legitimate, not democratic’. It is undoubtedly true that serious criticisms can be made of Morsi. Democracy is about more than simply voting. It is not a clear-cut issue, all countries sit on a continuum – the Scandinavian countries are all more democratic than Italy or the USA, for example.

However, to justify a military coup against a president properly elected only 12 months previously would need crystal clear and compelling grounds which have not been produced by Morsi’s opponents.

Many Egyptians; and particularly those of the 51.7 per cent who voted in 2012 for their first democratically elected leader in their country’s 5,000 year history, will see the removal of Morsi as revealing a sham the democracy championed by liberals and the West.

The most likely scenario for Egypt now looks like a return to military or authoritarian civilian rule. It can hardly be expected that the millions who voted for Morsi and still supported him will simply accept his removal.

The nightmare for Egypt is that it suffers the terrible bloodshed that befell Algeria when Civil Warbroke out after the army there carried out a coup to stop an election in 1991 that an Islamist movement was poised to win.

5 Responses to “One thing in Egypt is sure – it will not be the secular liberals taking power”

  1. NT86

    Of course it won’t usher in secular liberals, duh. But let’s remind ourselves that Brotherhood and salafist supporters wanted the implementation of Sharia law and deeply conservative values to reign supreme. Of course this coup is a bad thing for Egypt’s stability, but people with backward, sectarian and savage ideologies are not the type of people to run countries where there’s minority groups, women and many others which conservative Islam looks down on.

    Since the Brotherhood won the election, I was scared for the future of the Coptic community. Women themselves have documented how the Brotherhood have let them down. So there’s your democracy.

    Political Islam will never be compatible with democracy.

  2. robertcp

    You are saying that Islamists should not be allowed to rule even if they win free and fair elections. Some women must have voted for them! Would you prefer a secular dictator?

    The liberal left in countries like Egypt need to get their act together and win elections instead of relying on military coups.

  3. GooZ

    Yes. Islsmists and others with ideologies that are directly opposed to human rights should not be allowed to govern, because what you will inevitably end up with is tyranny of the majority. The fact that they won free and fair elections is a sad reflection on the backwardness of the majority of Egypt’s people, who have shown that they are not ready for democracy.

  4. robertcp

    Thanks for the very honest response. My view is that you accept election results and try to win next time.

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