Egypt at a Crossroads
The Egyptian trade unions have certainly been in the forefront of the demand to see the government of Egypt replaced. The level of anti –Brotherhood support in the streets has undoubtedly been impressive in its vastness and the determination of those taking part. It is also certainly true that the demonstrators have much to protest against. As Sharan Burrows ITUC General Secretary has commented:
“Egypt has not only experienced two lost years since the former dictator Mubarak was thrown out – major parts of the population are now experiencing unprecedented levels of poverty and exclusion and the promise of democratic transition and human rights is being betrayed. President Morsi is seen by tens of millions of Egyptians as serving only the interests of his own support base, a situation which is totally unsustainable.”
She could have added that these two years has seen a whole host of violations of trade union and workers rights. Not to mention the imposition of a constitution which was partisan, not based on cross-party consensus. The case against President Morsi and his Brotherhood government is compelling but should we join in the post Morsi celebrations?
The inconvenient truth is that a democratically elected government has ultimately been brought down through the intervention of the Egyptian army. An army acting so they say in the name of the people to avoid chaos and to work towards the quick restoration of democracy. It would be somewhat disingenuous to suggest that this vision of civil conflict with wholesale bloodshed is utterly without foundation. What is more difficult to defend is the argument that a profoundly undemocratic action was necessary to defend or reestablish Egyptian democracy. The toppling of the government is now being followed by key figures in the Brotherhood being hunted down and arrested. Where is Egyptian democracy now?
- To repeat a democratically elected government has been ousted
- The army is effectively in control and has ‘elected’ an interim President
- The precedent has been set that a government which is not liked by a substantial section of the populous can be brought down by unconstitutional means
- A major political party is receiving a message that it needs to be more inclusive if it is ever to exercise political power again or its vision for Egyptian society can only be achieved by undemocratic means.
Egyptian democracy far from being renewed is undoubtedly in danger. Will the army bring about a speedy return to barracks? How will the half of the Egyptian people who voted for the Muslim Brotherhood react? While it may be true that the Muslim Brotherhood has lost the support of some of those who voted for it, it’s difficult to believe that it does not still have substantial backing from within the electorate.
One should truly honour those brave women and men who took to the streets to rid themselves of Mubarak. They are truly inspiring. Their heroic actions were necessary because there was no other way of removing a dictatorial government. For those of us brought up in a democracy however imperfect, we can but guess at the tremendous feeling of empowerment and liberation their action brought them.
These very forms of action which brought them the possibility of democracy, now threatens to rip it away from them. Democracy is a game changer with its own rules.