[a group of long-standing political and bureaucratic forces that have tremendous power], albeit in a new form.
No doubt, the protests of June 30 were broad-based and massive, and expressed the dissatisfaction of broad segments of the Egyptian people with the policies of President Muhammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The protests also underscored the failure of the Brotherhood to accommodate other political forces and to establish a national safety net to protect the revolution of January 2011 and its gains.
By contrast, the protests shed light on the success of the supporters of the Mubarak regime to forge an alliance with the military and with liberal, nationalist, and leftist forces that had a crisis of confidence with the Islamist factions in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. However, this alliance had nothing in common except the bid to topple Morsi and prevent Islamists from controlling the government.
It follows that the claim that the June 30 protests were the second phase of the January 25 revolution, or a new popular uprising, contains many falsehoods and a betrayal of the truth. Here, we adduce five criteria to prove the validity of this conclusion:
First, if we consider the “revolutionary criterion,” we will notice that popular revolutions satisfy this by revolting against tyrannical corrupt regimes, through broad-based popular participation. However, the June 30 protests and the coup that ensued were a revolution against a democratic regime, and a civilian president who was elected in a constitutional and transparent fashion, and who was then forcibly abducted and locked away. The protests also led to the suspension of a constitution that was endorsed by nearly two-thirds of the population, and the dissolution of the democratically elected Shura Council.
On the other hand, the coup exposed an alliance with the remnants of the Mubarak regime that was overthrown by the revolution of January 25, and a rebellion against those who fought corruption and its symbols, and not against corrupt elements in the Deep State, which disrupted the process of reform.
June 30 was no revolutionary movement calling for transitional justice to deal effectively with the symbols of the Mubarak regime and its corrupt elements, it only brought a coup that reinvigorated the enemies of the January 25 revolution. In truth, after the coup, a number of ministerial posts were given to holdovers of the Mubarak regime, at a time when Islamists were excluded from all government posts, including those factions that sided with the coup such as al-Nour Party. Furthermore, minority parties represented in the National Salvation Front were given several ministries, more than the Islamists had under the administration of President Morsi, which was accused of seeking to impose Muslim Brotherhood ideology on state and society.
And if, on the other hand, we examine the popular criterion, we will notice that the June 30 protests expressed the attitudes of a segment of the Egyptian people, but ignored the attitudes of other broad segments of the same people, reflecting a state of polarization and division, rather than the state of consensus that was embodied by the January 25 revolution.
The supporters of the military coup had to exaggerate and overstate the number of people participating in the June 30 protests, to show the extent of support they enjoyed. We thus heard estimates putting the number of participants nationwide at seven million, then seventeen million, and then thirty, thirty-three, and even thirty-six million respectively, in what was insulting disrespect for people’s intellects. Moreover, the claim about thirty million people and above were made “sacrosanct,” in the sense that it was repeated vehemently by intellectuals, academics, and senior politicians affiliated with liberal, leftwing, and nationalist parties that supported the military coup. These figures do not stand up to any objective scrutiny, and were used to secure false legitimacy, with the help of a massive internal and external media apparatus.
When reliable organizations including the BBC sought to verify the figure of thirty million, they could not find one shred of evidence to back this up, from any credible source. Even Egyptian army sources denied that the army had issued a statement endorsing the figure, as did the Google Earth service. A study carried out by a panel of experts and supervised by Al-Jazeera proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the number of participants in the demonstrations on June 30 nationwide in Egypt could not have exceeded, at a maximum, four million. This means that only 4.5% of the Egyptian people took part in the protests, or 8% of those eligible to vote in the general election. In other words, what we saw was a media trick more than objective reality.
The same numerical popular criterion applies to the ‘allegations’ of the Tamarrod (Rebellion) movement about having collected 22 million signatures in support of the impeachment of President Morsi and snap presidential elections. No neutral third party could verify the names and numbers and prove their validity. Meanwhile, the supporters of the coup did not pay attention to the ‘allegations’ of Tajarrod – the counter campaign in support of Morsi – of having gathered 26 million signatures, a figure, if proven to be true, would at the very least invalidate the claims of representation, consensus, and the right to stage a coup touted by Tamarrod, the National Salvation Front, the Mubarak holdovers, the army, and their supporters.
The supporters of the coup also chose to ignore the fact that in modern and contemporary pluralist democracies, popular mobilization as a mode of action has been disregarded in favor of a more honest, accurate, and transparent mechanism, namely, the ballot boxes. To be sure, if the June 30 forces had been reassured by the size of their popular support, why did they not wait two or three months until the elections for the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council are held, to prove their claims though free and fair elections in which all the guarantees they require would be provided?
If we use a third criterion, namely, “the monopoly on force,” one of the most exclusive attributes of the state, where military and security force are under the control of the civilian democratic state, then what happened in Egypt contradicted this equation, and represented a step away from democracy. Indeed, the army placed itself above the state and the democratic system, and appointed itself as a referee that judges said system and an arbitrator among the political factions.
June 30 took the country back to the era of military coups, which blighted the world for a long time in places like Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Furthermore, the fact that the army sided with one party against another disrupted the democratic process, and invalidated its democratic credentials. If this reality is to become entrenched, it will lay the groundwork for a dangerous precedent that will put the army above all branches of power, and will render the establishment of political parties, elections, and building constitutional institutions futile, as all these will be subject to the whims of the generals and their interests.
Indications have emerged confirming that the military bias on the side of the protesters was not just to comply with popular will, but that it was planned in advance, in coordination with Tamarrod and the factions that were in favor of impeaching Morsi, to guarantee the success of the soft coup and secure a civilian front for it.
The fourth criterion is ethical-moral, related to the presence of a social compact upon which the democratic process is built, especially in what concerns the principle of the peaceful rotation of power, and not resorting to practices that ruin, disrupt, and distort the democratic process, and to giving the winning party a reasonable chance to implement its program.
Clearly, political forces affiliated to liberal, nationalist, and leftwing movements have been caught off guard by the popularity of the Islamists and their allies at several electoral junctures, and found themselves to be a “vocal phenomenon” without the popularity to match their rhetoric. Consequently, these factions opted to play a disruptive role, and their frustration with the democratic game led them to form an alliance with the holdovers of the Mubarak regime and the Egyptian army. It was an ethical failure that these forces preferred to gain access to power atop a tank rather than the ballot boxes.
Even though the supporters of these factions previously chanted “down, down with military rule,” these factions are now justifying the coup and the abduction of an elected president, and are putting up ministers to assume posts in the government. They are even justifying the suppression of freedoms and the closure of satellite TV channels, the massacres that were committed outside the Republican Guard HQ and Rabaa, and the suspension of the constitution and dissolution of constitutional institutions.
It seems that the rivalry with the Islamists and the feeling of powerlessness vis-à-vis them has pushed these factions to ignore all the slogans of the “civil state” which they boasted to be the masters and backers of. Whatever the case may be, the Islamists, who have been accused of terrorism and extremism, are the ones demonstrating today their respect for constitutional legitimacy, the peaceful transfer of power, and a transparent democratic process.
The fifth criterion is foreign relations, which are linked to Egypt’s Arab, regional, and international role. The coup seems to be trying to take Egypt back to the foreign policy paradigm that existed under the Mubarak regime deposed by the January 25 revolution, annulling a number of gains brought about by the revolution in terms of convergence between the political leadership and popular will.
Here, we focus on three main issues:
The first concerns the Arab dimension, where questions abound about the role of Gulf countries hostile to “political Islam” that fear the spread of the Arab Spring to their territories, in supporting and financing the coup. To make this point, many cite the fact that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait gave $12 billion to the new administration in Egypt following the successful coup against Morsi, as well as the role of the media affiliated with certain Gulf regimes in slandering the administration of Muhammad Morsi and the Islamists, and supporting the coup.
In this regard, it was shocking that the coup was accompanied by immediate measures imposing further restrictions on the Gaza Strip (GS), in parallel with the demolition of tunnels with GS and the closure of the Rafah crossing, and a fierce campaign in the media complete with lies and hateful vitriol against Hamas.
A similar campaign of incitement and hate targeted Syrians living in Egypt, who number around 200 thousand, in parallel with measures preventing Syrians from entering Egypt without visas obtained in advance.
In short, if the June 30 revolution goes on to further the so-called moderate camp, strangle the Palestinian resistance, and impose restrictions on the Syrian revolution, then can this be ever seen as expressing the free will of the Egyptian people?!
The second issue has to do with the Israeli position, as Israel did not hide its great pleasure to see democracy aborted in Egypt, the role of “political Islam” brought to an end, and military rule reinstated. Israel deemed the developments in Egypt to have turned the page on the Arab Spring; so much so that Shimon Peres, the president of Israel, called on Israeli officials to refrain from expressing their satisfaction with the coup, in order not to embarrass the coup leaders and antagonize Egyptians. The Israeli side also leaked reports that the coup leaders had contacted the Israelis, and notified them of their intention to carry out the coup three days before it happened.
The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv said that Israeli army circles see Sisi as a genius and a hero. According to the Middle East Monitor, the Israeli ambassador in Egypt said that Sisi “is not a national hero for Egypt, but for all Jews in Israel and around the globe.” Yet the Israeli attitude does not reflect so much fondness for Sisi, as much as it expresses hatred for, and fear of “political Islam,” and its potential role against Israel.
Is it possible for a revolution to satisfy the free will of the Egyptian people, and at the same time, agree with the will and attitudes of the main enemy of Egypt and her people?!
The third issue is related to the U.S. position in support of the coup. Evidence suggests the Americans knew in advance of the coup and supported it, though they preferred in the beginning to appear neutral and supportive of democracy to beconsistent with the slogans they raise. However, the U.S. refrained from describing what happened as a coup, and did not call for restoring constitutional legitimacy, or suspend aid that requires the existence of a democratic regime in power. Official U.S. statements subsequently sided with the coup, when they said that the Egyptian people have spoken. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry then said, “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence.”
Finally, the demonstrations on June 30 were used as leverage for the military to circumvent the democratic process, deal a blow to the Islamists in Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and disrupt the march of the Arab Spring. The enthusiasm of the youths and some national forces disenfranchised by the slow democratic transition and dire economic conditions was exploited to give a tinge of credibility to the coup. The opportunism of leftwing and liberal factions was also exploited, as these groups sought to conceal their weak popularity by seeking protection from the army.
For all the reasons above, we are facing an insurrection against all the gains of January 25. We are seeing a ‘false pregnancy’ that will be exposed quickly, paving the way for a new, real popular revolution, one is that is more powerful and ever more capable of restoring Egypt’s vigor and its pioneering Arab, Islamic, African, and international roles.
The Arabic version of this article appeared on Al Jazeera.net on 11/8/2013.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 16/8/2013