While violence in Egypt has been increasing, it’s important to remember that there was a coup in Egypt prior to the June 30th protests. That coup occurred November 22, 2012. That’s when President Morsi attempted to seize power for himself by fiat.

Here’s how Eric Trager later characterized the events:

The Brotherhood’s most blatantly undemocratic act, however, was Morsy’s Nov. 22 “constitutional declaration,” through which he placed his presidential edicts above judicial scrutiny and asserted the far-reaching power to “take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the goals of the revolution.” When this power grab catalyzed mass protests, Morsy responded by ramming a new constitution through the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly, and the Brotherhood later mobilized its cadres to attack the anti-Morsy protesters, and subsequently extract confessions from their captured fellow citizens. So much for promises of “consultation.”

At the time Matt Bradley and Charles Levinson of the Wall Street Journal reported Egypt Sees Largest Clash Since Revolution:

Egypt’s opposition was galvanized last month when Mr. Morsi issued a decree granting him nearly unrestricted powers and placing him above the judiciary. The decree paved the way for hurried approval of a constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-dominated body that the opposition says was working illegitimately and produced a charter weighted with Islamic law. The government has set a referendum on the draft for Dec. 15.

Anti-Morsi Egyptians took to the streets. On Tuesday, they marched on the presidential palace to denounce Mr. Morsi, the first time in recent memory that protesters made it to the palace walls. On Wednesday, Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Eryan, speaking on al-Jazeera, called on millions of Egyptians to go to the presidential palace to “defend the state and its legitimacy.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leaders of the opposition, countered on Wednesday that Mr. Morsi had lost all legitimacy. The president, he said, bears full responsibility for the current violence and is in danger of drawing Egypt into “something worse.”

Jeffrey Fleishman of the Los Angeles Times reported Islamists clash with rivals in Egypt:

Pro-Morsi factions overran about 200 protesters camped outside the presidential palace in north Cairo. The clashes came after the Muslim Brotherhood-allied Freedom and Justice Party called thousands of its members into the streets in a counter-demonstration to drive opposition movements from the presidential palace. …

More than 200 people were injured across a cityscape that had the charged air of a fluorescent-lighted battlefield with competing banners, bandaged men and dinner trays used as shields to block barrages of rocks.

Egyptian news reports said clashes spread to other cities, including attacks on several Muslim Brotherhood offices. There were unconfirmed reports of at least three deaths.

And as protests continued, a few days later, Stephanie McCrummen of the Washington Post reported In Egypt, a show of force from Morsi supporters:

As opponents of President Mohamed Morsi again marched to the presidential palace Tuesday night, his Islamist supporters packed a square about two miles away – near enough, several said, to take action to protect the building and their president if necessary.

“Of course, we will protect the palace,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam, 59, a government worker who was at Rabaa al-Addaweya Square with thousands of other Morsi supporters waving the green flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s dominant political Islamist organization. “We will not allow anyone to go inside there.” …

In recent days, opposition protesters have described having their wrists bound, being brutally beaten and interrogated by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters during 15 hours of violent street clashes outside the presidential palace last week, during which both sides hurled rocks and wielded clubs. Protesters said their Islamist captors called them “infidels” and forced them to “confess” to being paid to stoke violence, an interpretation of events that a spokesman for the Brotherhood’s political party denied.

David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reported further Morsi’s Allies Beat Protesters Outside Palace:

Khaled el-Qazzaz, a spokesman for Mr. Morsi, said Monday that he had ordered an investigation into the reported abuses and asked the prosecutor to bring charges against any involved. He said that Mr. Morsi was referring only to confessions obtained by the police, not by his supporters.

But human rights lawyers involved in the cases of the roughly 130 people who ended up in police custody Wednesday night, all or most of them delivered by the Islamists, say the police obtained no confessions. “His statement was completely bogus,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a researcher on policing at Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights, whose lawyers were on hand about an hour after the speech when prosecutors released all the detainees without charges. “There were no confessions; they were all just simply beaten up,” he said. “There was no case at all, and they were released the next day.”

Officials of the Muslim Brotherhood said the group opposed such vigilante justice and did not organize the detentions. And in at least one case one victim said a senior figure of the group rescued her from captivity. But the officials also acknowledged that some of their senior leadership was on the scene at the time. They said some of their members took part in the detentions, along with more hard-line Islamists.

Reading these articles makes clear that the dissatisfaction with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood is not new. In fact it makes the events of the past week even less surprising, if not predictable.

But something else needs to be said. When the New York Times argues that the recent coup, was a “rejection of democracy,” it proceeds from an assumption that democracy equates with a free election. But a free election a necessary but insufficient condition for democracy. The winner of a free election needs to understand that he is limited by the will of the people who elected him for an election to be sufficient. Morsi (and the Muslim Brotherhood) never accepted any such limit. They saw an election as a license to rule according to their ideology and seize more power.

After Morsi’s power grab in November a New York Times editorial exhorted the administration “… to speak out when [Morsi] tramples on democratic principles at home.” But the premise of the editorial was that Morsi’s power grab was an aberration, not his expected behavior.

With the Muslim Brotherhood, an attempt to seize power once it achieves political power is a feature of its ideology, not a bug.

What Morsi did in November was, effectively, a coup. That he backed down when enough pressure was brought to bear, didn’t mean that he thought he was wrong. Subsequently, he and the Muslim Brotherhood intimidated opponents, attempted to impose their standards on the Egyptian artistic community and appointed allies to political positions. Maybe last week’s news was a coup, but it wasn’t the first. Maybe it wasn’t democratic, but it was no less democratic than the power it replaced.


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