Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Second Egyptian Uprising of 2013

The Second Egyptian uprising is complicated and few have any idea what the army takeover will mean in practice. There are two broad currents of popular opinion in Egypt.The first are those who believe in pushing Egypt towards becoming a more Islamic republic under Morsi.

Those who support Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are usually poorer and more uneducated with little understanding of what the procedures of a functioning democracy are beyond imposing the will of the 'Godly' people against those forces that are not.

The second consists of a broad coalition of the educated and more secular minded Egyptians, Coptic Christians and anti-Islamist Muslims who resent the Muslim Brotherhood because its puritanism and incompetence is bad for the economy and the tourist industry.

For years before the 2011 revolution, Egypt was trapped in a cycle of fanatical Islamist revolt and state repression. When terrorists murdered tourists in Luxor in 1997 there was mass revulsion against Islamists who reacted with a ceasefire against Mubarak.

Subsequently, the more moderate Islamists represented by Morsi built up a rival power base and were dedicated to working their way to power through a democratic mandate as a means to impose their brand of state power on society in a way that cannot be other than polarising and divisive.

The problem has been, set against the background of a collapsing economy, that the Morsi regime has been seen to be allowing radicalised Islamists some freedom to persecute minorities such as the Copts in order to retain a populist power base, a strategy that shows continuity with Mubarak's dictatorship.

The opposition to Morsi is based upon those politically minded Egyptians with a memory of constitutional rule for thirty years before Colonel Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak ended the relatively free expression of opinion and imposed military rule and dictatorship.

It's not certain whether Egypt is really going to follow the pattern followed by Pakistan of regular popular army coups as Jonathan Steele suggests. Egypt is an ancient land with a social and cultural unity that gives it an identity beyond being a nation defined only by Islam. Nor is it divided on sectarian lines as Syria.

The army takeover, called by the BBC a coup, may well accentuate a society already polarised in to two rival camps. Yet it was polarised in any case by Morsi's rule and the fact the Muslim Brotherhood has an illiberal majoritarian 'will of the umma' concept of democracy as set against a liberal constitutional alternative.

The educated classes in Cairo and others annoyed at Morsi do not want a choice of either secular dictatorship backed by the army or an Islamist regime dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood but to push for the proper full democracy with a functioning constitution and checks and balances promised in 2011.

Whether the protesters in Tahrir Square will get that or not is not at all certain.

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