الخميس، يوليو 25، 2013

Egypt’s Crowd Democracy ... The Third Wave

Egypt's Crowd Democracy 

The Third Wave

On the evening of Thursday Nov 22nd 2012, I was sitting in my office after hours trying to catch up with some overdue work, when a friend called me and told me about Morsi's unconstitutional decrees, placing the President above the law in breach of his inauguration oath. I remember writing on that evening an article titled, "The End of the President's Legitimacy and Usurpation of Power". A few days later, the Muslim Brothers and Islamist Militias put the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) under siege,  to prevent its members from convening and considering the case against the biased constituent assembly. Morsi had become a President after swearing before the very same court exactly five months before.  But it was on Dec 5, 2012, when the Brothers and Islamist militias attacked peaceful demonstrators, whom I happened to be marching with, near the Presidential Palace, killing a dozen and injuring a thousand of us, when I wrote, the Muslim Brotherhood has announced a civil war against Egyptian people, and thus it has drafted its own death certificate. In March, I warned that Egypt will soon reach a "point of no return" and that the army would soon have to intervene to prevent the country from sliding into chaos and explained that the forces of "crowd-democracy" in Egypt may be stronger than all of the political parties combined.

Months passed, and it became clear to Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood could not evolve and rise to match the task of governing a country like Egypt, the oldest state in the world. The Brotherhood instead continued to operate as a secret underground organization which sees its interests in continuing away from accountability or public scrutiny, while controlling all taps of  power in the country. The Brotherhood wanted to have both of two worlds, being an underground organization and being in government! Morsi started to appoint his "Brothers" and allies in every key position regardless of qualification or suitability. Arms smuggled from Libya flooded the country into the hands of Islamist militants. Morsi allowed militant Jihadists a safe haven in Sinai and ordered the army to stop a campaign designed to regain control of the peninsula, despite its strategic importance to Egypt's national security. Appointing a member of Al Gamaa El Islamia as governor of Luxor, where the same group slaughtered 59 tourists in 1997, was perhaps the final straw. Egyptians felt that the state was on the verge of collapse, their nation's unity is being jeopardized and their identity, way of life and very survival as a nation is being threatened. The people had to choose between two evils, allowing the Brotherhood to continue turning the country into a Taliban Afghani model or ousting Morsi who was elected only a year ago, alienating millions of his supporters and risking eruption of a civil war.

A few month before, a grassroots movement which called itself "Tamarod" or "Rebelion",had started a campaign asking people to sign a petition demanding early elections. The aim of the campaign was to get 15 million signatures by June 30, which marked one year of Morsi's inauguration. In the presidential elections held a year ago, Morsi had earned 5 million votes in the first round (25%) and 13 million votes in the second (51.7%), running against Shafik, who was affiliated with Mubarak's regime. Just before June 30, Tamarod announced that its volunteers and affiliated movements collected 22 million signatures and asked Morsi to call for early elections. Morsi refused to compromise and vowed to defend "legitimacy" with his life. On June 30, mass demonstrations broke out in every major city in Egypt demanding Morsi's removal. Estimates place the number of people participating in the anti-Muslim Brothers demonstrations between 20-33 million people, in what may be the largest political event in history. Morsi supporters were also mobilized from all over the country to gather in Rabaa El Adawya square in Cairo and Nahda square in Giza, but the picture was clear, Morsi had lost the popular support of the Egyptian people. The Egyptian center for public opinion research "Baseera" showed that Morsi's approval rate sled from 76% to 32% in 10 months! Many clashes erupted between Morsi's supporters and the protesters especially outside Cairo. The army intervened and gave a 48-hour ultimatum to Morsi to respond to the demands and form a government of national unity. Morsi again rejected these demands and was ousted on July 3rd 2013 by Army Chief, Gen. Abdel Fattah El Sisy, and was replaced by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court who acts as an interim president till a new president is elected. Whether this was a revolution, a coup or a "recolution" is of little consequence to most Egyptians who see this as the third wave of the Egyptian revolution and are happy to resort to "crowd-democracy" until a democratic system which generates new alternatives exists.

Crowd Democracy has been influential in policy-making and legislation in Egypt at least since Jan 25, 2011. In the first wave of the revolution, Mubarak was removed by a movement which had no leader except the "Connected Mind" of the crowd. In the second wave, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ran the first transition, had to change the prime minister twice, shuffled many ministers and governors, reorganized the State Security apparatus (Secret Police), changed media structures, amended election laws, proposed supra-constitutional principles and modified transition dates, all in response to crowd-democracy pressures manifested in Friday million-man-protests or massive online campaigns. SCAF reform initiatives would often be announced on a Wednesday to appease protesters so that they do not assemble the Friday after! In the third wave, Morsi was ousted with a similar movement using the same mechanics. The problem of course, is that Morsi's supporters also have their own crowd. The country will continue in turmoil until two things happen: each crowd would recognize that it cannot alone monopolize the political scene or eradicate the other crowd; and democratic process would allow revolutionary forces to be adequately represented in the parliament and government, despite the parity in resources, logistics and organization. This parity currently favors old political parties and organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood with disproportionate political gains much larger than their actual share of street popularity.

One thing is for sure, it is not yet time for Egyptians to celebrate. Violent clashes took place in several incidents around the country. Islamist militants intensified attacks on police and army  installations and personnel in Sinai. Pro-Morsi supporters killed and injured hundreds of protesters and bystanders in various areas. A church was burned down in upper Egypt. Over 51 pro Morsi supporters were killed in clashes with the army and police near the Republican Guard Officers Club where Morsi had been once held and more confrontations seem imminent.  The road ahead is full of challenges, most importantly, the task of reaching reconciliation between pro and anti-Morsi camps and restarting a political roadmap which would allow for an inclusive democratic process, one that is able to generate the kind of options representing the January 25 Revolution.

First Published at Harvard IOP Blog in July 2013

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