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Is Another Revolution Brewing in Egypt?

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  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Protesters took to the streets by the millions across Egypt today to demand President Mohammed Morsi's ouster. The largely peaceful gatherings by anti-Mosri protesters drew crowds in some cities that were larger than those during the height of the 2011 revolution that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. While at least four people were killed and roughly 200 were wounded by pro-Brotherhood individuals, the protests did not bring the level of violence that many feared, with many parts of the country reporting a celebration like atmosphere at the current moment.

    There is no doubt that Egypt is a powder keg and there's a real possibility that the country will find itself in an armed conflict before we realize it. Mr. Morsi claims that he was democratically elected and is just doing the business that he was elected to do. His opponents claim that he has completely silenced them and his parliament is not legitimate.

    Whatever winds up happening, I wonder if President Morsi is second guessing the divisive policies of the Brotherhood and questioning where everything went wrong. My two cents about all of this is that it's far easier to be in opposition to a dictator, as the Brotherhood was during Mubarak's tenure, than it is to actually govern a country. The Brotherhood probably felt that they would be welcomed with open arms, but are learning that it's far more difficult to be the party in power than it is to be in the opposition. Thought's on what is going on in Egypt and if these protests will lead to President Morsi's removal?
  • Independent
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    What is "going on in Egypt ? " Maybe a lot more than the "teething problems" of a "new" democracy ?
    14 million is a BIG number and what is happening is not in isolation from events elsewhere. People talk of the "Arab street" for a reason. The region has a long history of consciousness of common interest, identity and destiny. Egypt is perhaps the epicentre of "the Arab street" But the region is also historically linked in many ways to societies around the mediterranean. When events of this scale happen they are likely to have an impact on this larger area. This is perhaps not appreciated "states side" where there is even more isolationist myopia than in the "home" of "anglo - saxon" hubris. (Such cultural heritage impacts on politics whether it is acknowledged or not.)
    Turkey is undergoing similar tensions and demonstrations questioning the legitimacy of elected representatives identified with specific religious parties. But this is within a context where the legitimacy of supposed democratic decisions are being challenged in many countries across Europe and the world. For example the "Troika" policies in several European states and the ruling party in Brazil. "Democracy" is according to some endangered and according to others the concept is being transformed in the ongoing process of mass struggles. Maybe those with less baggage, only recently freed from repressive regimes, have freer and more creative notions about the meaning and potential of "democracy" than those hidebound by rigid conceptions and perhaps delusions about the specific form of democracy they imagine to be perfect and eternal ? Maybe the USA has been trying to "export" a brand of "democracy" that is "past its sell by date." (and has helped stir up a "hornets nest" in the process ! )
    It takes a while for ripples to cross an ocean, but not long at all for a tsunami to cover the same distance. If a political tsunami is building up that goes right down to the base of how the world is organised, it will not leave the USA untouched. That, I believe, is the scope of the question - not a mere matter of post dictatorship teething problems.
  • Independent
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    Situation update !
    Egypt is now in a state of revolution - the second wave. Speculation is rife about the intentions of the army. Apparently 22 million signed the Tamarod organised petition demanding Morsi step down. The army is made up of powerful money grubbing corrupt generals who run part of whats left of production and the rank and file who's conditions are little better than that of civilians. It does n't take a great deal of political acumen to work out how the rank and file feel about 22 million as opposed to the top brass. Hopes long thwarted are surging out again. (many)Western political leaders are probably praying for a brutal army coup. Eager to stuff more dynamite in that "powder keg" they have created in the middle east (Britain and USA above all) They will use every means to isolate and undermine this revolution. To tar it with some sectarian/terrorist brush. The way I see it, History sometimes presents situations that force us to reconsider the meaning of democracy. The Egyptian people have gifted us one of those defining moments. Their courage and determination alone is worthy of more than mean spirited pessimism. Right now, states side, democrats should be thinking about how to stop their leaders screwing up once again - a bit of street action would not go amiss.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Thanks for the update, wildsage. It looks like things will be getting very interesting there in the near future. I honestly don't know how I feel about all of this. I'd like to say that I'm not a fan of a religiously dominated party ruling any government, but they were democratically elected in national elections. I understand that those elections were claimed to be rife with fraud, but that has yet to proven as a fact. Being a believer in democracy and the will of the people, this is a tough one to wrap my head around. Whatever the case, these next couple of days will be very telling and we should know what the Army's intentions are very quickly.
  • Independent
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    According to Ahdaf Soueif (Guardian 2nd July) there were two candidate choices for president - a candidate from the NDP (Mubarack's party) "rump"- OR Morsi!! So NO democratic secular choice ! AND (very important) a constitution resulted that enshrines islam within the state. Tamarod (meaning "Rebel" the youth grouping that organised the 22 million petition to remove Morsi) and the opposition say Morsi rules on behalf of the Muslim brotherhood NOT (as should be the case) the people as a whole. Apparently a conclusion not hastily arrived at ! It seems rather that many voted Morsi expecting democracy and are revoking that mandate by popular acclaim - which has been expressed by 22 million petition (way above Morsi vote) and millions demonstrating and occupying (with relatively little violence)
    Ultimately (as US history demonstrates) the people can use force of arms (or numbers)to secure democracy. Elections, according to THIS tradition, are merely means to express the will of the people ! The US constitution has stood the test of time. Egypt's has not. World wide US constitution's separation of powers is admired. Surely it is the lack of this safeguards and the abuse of power that has led to the resurgent revolution in Egypt. The eyes of the world are watching because the implications are immense. The ears of the world tune in to US democratic discussion because USA is still, just about, the most powerful country in the world and yet unfortunately often seems ill informed on the rest of the world. Which is one reason why I joined the forum and why I am happy to find that some contributions are well worth engaging with. The other reason is that social media has become so central to mass action - and my generation has a lot of catching up to do in that department ! So thank you for raising the issue and responding.
    Wildsage
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    wildsage Wrote: According to Ahdaf Soueif (Guardian 2nd July) there were two candidate choices for president - a candidate from the NDP (Mubarack's party) "rump"- OR Morsi!! So NO democratic secular choice ! AND (very important) a constitution resulted that enshrines islam within the state. Tamarod (meaning "Rebel" the youth grouping that organised the 22 million petition to remove Morsi) and the opposition say Morsi rules on behalf of the Muslim brotherhood NOT (as should be the case) the people as a whole. Apparently a conclusion not hastily arrived at ! It seems rather that many voted Morsi expecting democracy and are revoking that mandate by popular acclaim - which has been expressed by 22 million petition (way above Morsi vote) and millions demonstrating and occupying (with relatively little violence)
    Ultimately (as US history demonstrates) the people can use force of arms (or numbers)to secure democracy. Elections, according to THIS tradition, are merely means to express the will of the people ! The US constitution has stood the test of time. Egypt's has not. World wide US constitution's separation of powers is admired. Surely it is the lack of this safeguards and the abuse of power that has led to the resurgent revolution in Egypt. The eyes of the world are watching because the implications are immense. The ears of the world tune in to US democratic discussion because USA is still, just about, the most powerful country in the world and yet unfortunately often seems ill informed on the rest of the world. Which is one reason why I joined the forum and why I am happy to find that some contributions are well worth engaging with. The other reason is that social media has become so central to mass action - and my generation has a lot of catching up to do in that department ! So thank you for raising the issue and responding.
    Wildsage
    I just saw on the news that financially this country is going down the drain in a rapid clip; industries do no longer want to settle there; tourists dwindled and the Suez channel gets also less income they said. The government tax structure seems to be totally messed up, inflation is going to the roof etc. Probably it will be a total financial collapse if the uncertainty continuous. Indeed as you said this will have huge consequences for the region. Since also Syria is in a simular but worse situation then other countries in that area will be affected including Israel. So in other words even if peace may return to the region then there is a huge financial crash at hand.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Kinda makes you miss Mubarek, doesn't it? As bad as Mubarek was, things were better in Egypt under Mubarek than since he has been out of power. At least he kept the peace and kept the economy in better shape than Morsi has.

    Mubarek was bad, Morsi is worse, the next guy??? Who knows???

    Other than Israel and Saudi Arabia, Egypt is probably our most important ally in the region, and things do not look good right now. How many more hours until the deadline?
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    The USA and the President Obama are between a rock and a hard place. Obama pushed hard for democratic elections and that's what the people got...more or less. Yes some fraud allegations, but were they significant enough to change the election? Regardless, once in power Morsi has shown himself to not be the president for all the people, but rather answers to certain religious Islamist factions, most notably the Sufi dominated Muslim Brotherhood, which by the way is not even the most extremist religious faction in the country. That honor goes to the Salafist al-Nour Party, which adheres to a strict interpretation of the Quran. They lead what is termed the Salafi alliance, which includes two Sufi political parties, Tahrir Al-Misri and Sawt Al-Hurriyya.

    Wikipedia, Politics of Egypt.

    Together the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood voting block and more extreme Islamist al-Nour partiy and their alliances control some 75 percent of the Parliament. It's not even close for the various secular parties.

    For anyone that wants to try understands the Islamist politics that are playing out today, I suggest reading Jonathan Brown's paper on the Salafis and Sufis in Egypt.

    Jonathan Brown, December 2011, Carnegie Endowment for Peace, Salafis and Sufis in Egypt.

    In the Arabian Peninsula, the Salafi movement is known as Wahhabism, a sect of Islam perhaps more familiar to westerners. While much of the west has struggled to understand the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam, the introduction of the Salifi and Sufi to their venacular can be mind boggling. I won't go into all their differences except to say governing in a coalition of Sufi and Salifi can be as difficult as a coalition of Shiite and Sunni.

    So while the Egyptian protests can be seen largely as a protest of secularists against an Islamic regime, the underlying complexity of internal strife within the Islamic parties is very hard to understand, let alone pick sides.

    President Obama would be wise to tread very cautiously despite the pressure from others to side with the secularists.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    New York Times, July 1, 2013: Young Activists Rouse Egypt Protests but Leave Next Steps to Public

    This protest movement is as much about the economic situation in Egypt as it is about religious ideology. Young people, many of whom are devout Islamists that voted for Morsi in the election, are disillusioned with progress. But beyond the protest movement they have no idea of what to do next. As Ben Hubbard in this NYT article states:

    "Their movement, however, underlines both the greatest strengths and the most glaring weaknesses of the youth groups that have driven many of Egypt’s most fundamental political transformations since the revolution, channeling public sentiment to political change but failing to transform it into sustainable organizations.

    "“While they are communicating for the people, they are not figuring out how to organize people within the political process itself other than calling on them to protest,” said Rabab el-Mahdi, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo. Dr. Mahdi said that the group’s lack of a well-articulated political project likely means it will “vanish just like other youth coalitions because they are about what they don’t want, not about what they want.”"


    So they want Morsi to resign...and then leave the path forward after Morsi to the "public?" And what would the next round of elections bring? They want jobs and any jobs that might come through foreign investment won't be there as long as the country is in a perpetual state of protest. Even tourism has dropped off significantly exasperating the situation.

    Some in the USA have called for cutting off all aid to Egypt, but that would make the situation even worse.

    Like I said, President Obama is between a rock and a hard place, and the situation is highly volatile and complex. The Islamist movement is still dominant but also divided. Furthermore, any new elections and rewrite of the constitution are unlikely to change the economic situation any time soon. Would the slate of candidates differ much from the previous slate? More coalitions of Sufis, Salafis, and secularists...

    Until the youth driving this protest movement have jobs and more economic security, civil unrest will remain no matter which party is in power.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    It looks like a military coup is underway in Egypt. The Army has placed a travel ban on President Morsi and is moving in to take control of the country. The President has remained defiant and has explicitly stated that he will not be removed peacefully. Things will be getting very interesting here in the hours and days ahead.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    I just hope that the Arms and Aircraft that were promised to this regime are now put on hold.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Right about that.

    Let's just freeze all military aid until things are sorted out. That would be the common sense thing to do, but common sense is a rare commodity with our government lately.

    The really sad thing is that Morsi was reportedly the first democratically elected president in the history of the country. One year and gone. The next president...unknown and he may be even worse than Morsi. Hopefully a good person, but maybe another Saddam Hussein wannabe.

    Morsi seems to be out, but will things get better...or worse?

    Events unfolding rapidly so stay tuned. Military coup, or peoples revolution, or what?
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Max Blumenthal, AlterNet - Al Jazeera, July 19, 2013: Egypt's Numbers Game: How Crazy Claims of 33 Million Protesters Were Used to Boost a Coup

    Max Blumenthal has called into question the number of protesters in Tahrir Square on the day that the military removed Morsi from the presidency.

    "Was there any credible source for the widely cited figure of 33 million demonstrators? It has been impossible to locate one, either in English or Arabic media. As for the estimations of 17 and 14 million anti-Morsi protesters, there does not appear to be a valid source beyond the two anonymous military officials – not exactly dispassionate observers.

    "On July 15, the BBC reported that it was unable to find any legitimate sources for the opposition's claims of either 14, 17, or 33 million protesters, affirming the conclusions of BBC Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies, who concluded that mobilising such a massive number of protesters was "impossible."

    "Through simple Algebra, the Egyptian blogger Shereef Ismail has also poked gaping holes in the opposition's numbers. Estimating that each protester occupied a space of approximately .45 square metres, Ismail calculated that the absolute maximum number of anti-Morsi demonstrators who could fit in the total area of major public spaces in Egyptian cities was at most 2.8 million."


    It would appear then that the numbers were trumped up by over a factor of 10 to justify intervention by the military. But what next? If the numbers are not there, will the next election be any different?
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    Update

    The Army has declared a state of emergency in Egypt, which is in effect for one month.

    Security forces have taken control of two protest camps that Morsi supporters have been hunkered down in, causing multiple causalities. The exact number is all over the place considering what side you ask. The Brotherhood claims that thousands have been killed while the Army insists that 150 have been killed in the unrest.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    The Egyptian government/police/military seems to have decided to kill their way out of this crisis, which is not uncommon in that region of the world.

    The US foreign policy seems to be nonexistent, which is not uncommon, either. First democratically elected president in the history of Egypt, removed in a military coup, and the US refuses to call it a coup.

    When is a coup not a coup? When our federal government doesn't WANT it to be a coup.

    Egypt is not yet another Syria, but it's not looking like the most stable of middle eastern countries either. And it was VERY stable for a very long time.

    Anyone miss Mubarek yet?