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Did Egyptian military commit or prevent a coup?

Did Egyptian military commit or prevent a coup?

Was Muslim Brotherhood rule the end of democracy as Egypt briefly knew it?

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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Yukio Ngaby | July 9, 2013 at 8:27 pm

“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.”

Thanks for that and succinctly put. I get so tired of arguing with people and having to explain that democracy is not just people voting in a dictator.

It might be good to mention that Egypt’s extremely close election that Morsi ended up winning wasn’t without international critics and their allegations of fraud.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | July 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

    No it was not that close . In a run off elimination the end outcome is rarely larger than 51 -48 .

    Every election has outside opinions on how it should be run& the legitimacy.

    There are few claims within Egypt that the election result was not true. They are just not all happy with the effects 12 months in .

      Yukio Ngaby in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | July 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Clearly you’re not American. LOL. A US presidential race decided by 1 or 2 points in a popular vote count is considered kinda close.

      As for claims of fraud, well…

      From The Telegraph June 17, 2012:

      “The Brotherhood said opinion polls showed their man would win a free vote comfortably. But they also claimed that “fake voters” were appearing on polling station lists – dead people and members of the security forces, who in Egypt are supposed to remain neutral and are disqualified.

      “What is happening is a ‘soft fraud’,” said Mohammed Mustafa, a campaign agent for Mr Morsi in Manshiet Nasser, a poor Cairo suburb.”

      and later

      “The election has been fought amid allegations that the run-off was a conspiracy between the army and the Brotherhood against liberals, none of whose candidates won a run-off place, and of the dissolution of parliament after a court ruling on Thursday.”

      So the Brotherhood is claiming some fraud and the other side is claiming ca onspiracy… but that’s just normal problems with an election and only a few Egyptian complaints? Really?

      Or here:

      “Yet Shafik’s campaign filed “several complaints” with Sultan’s commission, alleging the Muslim Brotherhood committed “systemic violations.”

      “Specifically, they accused the Islamist group’s supporters of bribing voters with “large sums of money and food” to back Morsi, as well as using “intimidation, threats and violence against supporters of candidate Ahmed Shafik.” The former prime minister’s camp also said it “filed more than 100 official complaints accusing the Brotherhood of ballot rigging and stuffing.””

      or here:

      “Three top candidates in Egypt’s presidential race filed appeals to the election commission ahead of the deadline Sunday, alleging violations in the first round vote that they say could change the outcome.”

      “Shafiq, who placed second after Morsi, said votes cast for him in one province were not included in the ballot count.”

      And here regarding the vote for the Egypt’s constitution:

      “Egypt’s opposition called Sunday for an investigation into allegations of vote fraud in the referendum on a deeply divisive Islamist-backed constitution after the Muslim Brotherhood, the main group backing the charter, claimed it passed with a 64 per cent “yes” vote.”

      This is just the results from a simple search. The fact is that there have been claims of fraud through every step of the process. Taking this into account, I believe you are mistaken when you say “There are few claims within Egypt that the election result was not true. They are just not all happy with the effects 12 months in .”

      And certainly these claims do effect the Egyptians views of the legitimacy of Morsi’s office.

        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | July 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm

        Beatings are by both sides. The Egyptian Judiciary & military accepted the verdict just as as the Electoral College & the US military accepted 2012 even though both sides bleated about voter suppression & multiple voters.

        That’s what the world has gone with.

        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | July 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm

        Btw your sources are all foreign & in English & by just looking things up in retrospect you lose the contemporary feel .

        At the time everyone was happy to see any elections at all.

          Yukio Ngaby in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | July 9, 2013 at 10:52 pm

          I see no purpose in linking to news stories in Arabic. If you want me to link to news stories about this issue in Japanese or Yoruba, well I can do that (well, Yoruba would take a bit of effort but I think it’s possible), but I still do not see the point. Other than that, English will have to do.

          My point was that these series of Egyptian elections were hardly without dispute and claims of fraud, and I don’t believe that the effect of these claims simply disappeared after the Egyptian elections were accepted by the judiciary and the military. Furthermore, I believe that it’s a significant factor in people’s current anger toward Morsi.

          Your words,
          ” Btw your sources are all foreign & in English & by just looking things up in retrospect you lose the contemporary feel . ”

          sound and feel just like those used by people rejecting video and press transalations by PMW, MEMRI demonstrating the contemporary voices amongst the Arabs and their Palestinian branch.

        David Gerstman in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | July 9, 2013 at 10:29 pm

        Yukio, first of all thank you for the kind words. There’s another type of fraud that was possible. In a column I’ve mocked frequently, Thomas Friedman wrote about illiterate people voting for whom their children told them to vote for.

Elections might be considered free but they are too easily manipulated. Thus was the case when Morsi was elected to power. The people had a choice between the MB backed Morsi or the Muburak hack. They did not want the hack from the Muburak regime because they did not trust him, instead they decided to give benefit of doubt to Morsi. In my opinion that was not a free choice.

    David Gerstman in reply to Aussie. | July 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    As noted above, the result was pretty close. Barry Rubin wrote that Shafik actually used pretty western style formulations in his speeches. Even Prof Rubin would concede that that doesn’t prove how he would govern, but he shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

    BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Aussie. | July 9, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Not at all. In the first run off there were 9 candidates of which the top 2 went into the final elimination.

    Morsi came first of the 9 .

    Aussie – you have absolutely no choice let alone a free choice in your leaders. 🙂 Canberra only has Garema Place which has a merry go round & an ice skating rink & no room for demonstrations for / against the recent change of leadership or the actual minority government arrangement.

    Egypt will have to find its own way.

parse it however you want, but it was a coup.
better question to ask would be was it good or bad.
time will tell.

BannedbytheGuardian | July 9, 2013 at 9:30 pm

The numbers in the final round 51.73- 48.27.

13,230,131 – 12,347,380

Of Governates won 18 – 10.

The list of Governates won shows Cairo with Morsi 45-55 . Not surprising they got an anti Morsi turnout in Tahrir Sq. to the extent that if this represents the nation is a key IMO. It is worth looking at the regional voting patterns – pretty stark .

BannedbytheGuardian | July 9, 2013 at 10:21 pm

The Egyptian model resembles the French presidential system . France had 10 candidates in the first round of which Hollande got 28 % Sarkozy 27. That was close .

The run off & final vote was Hollande 51.64. – Sarkozy – 48.36. Nobody is saying the final outcome was close.& thus in coup d’état margin.

Also what to do with the legislative assembly body?

    Yukio Ngaby in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | July 9, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Who is claiming a coup by virtue of close election results? Gerstman didn’t.

      BannedbytheGuardian in reply to Yukio Ngaby. | July 10, 2013 at 2:54 am

      I am pleased to see David has a spokesperson . You have helped him get to double figures. Sometimes his NY T vapours get no comments at all.

      Technically Gerstman posted that the Egyptian elections were close. By comparing the almost exact similar French Presidential elections via similar method & number of candidates I have demonstrated that this is not so – particularly if anyone wants to base legitimacy on them.

      Elections are the one barometer we have & illiterate people can certainly know who they want to vote.for. I have spoken on this very issue with election scrutinisers in Alabama who are authorised to help them vote. Many indigenous people’s throughout the world do not read / write the official language but like to vote . I have family m & f who lived / visited & worked in Egypt recently & did not encounter many feeble minded. Life is too tough.

      But I think it is up to them – they have been around 700 years .


        BannedbytheGuardian in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | July 10, 2013 at 2:56 am

        Make that 7000 years.

        Yukio Ngaby in reply to BannedbytheGuardian. | July 10, 2013 at 4:39 am

        Your m & f have been around for 7000 years?

        Gerstman certainly does not need a spokesman. I speak only for myself.

        “Technically Gerstman posted that the Egyptian elections were close.”

        Where did he say this? I re-read his post and do not see where he said that here. Moreover, where did he say this to delegitimize [is that a word?] Morsi? Give me a quote for either.

        Gerstman used Morsi’s actions while in office to question the legitimacy of the democratic nature of his presidency. Not the mere fact that it was a close election.

        As far as comparing Egypt to France…

        Perhaps you can direct me to various news reports where both the Sarkozy and Hollande camps were claiming in the press that the French election results were questionable due to fraud or were a part of a conspiracy.

        It is not merely the fact that Egypt’s election were close– close enough where fraud would not have to be so widespread to alter the result btw– that gives me pause. It is that fact PLUS the fact that various camps, including the winners, in pretty much every stage of the process cried foul, PLUS the fact that, despite Egypt’s 7000 year history, the country does not have much experience in holding free, open, and legitimate elections.

        If the French elections were burdened with these same difficulties, than I would be more convinced by your comparison. But they don’t have these difficulties. So I’m not.

        Were similar protocols that were used in Alabama also used in Egypt during their election? I would think that would be very difficult just by virtue of numbers.

        Egypt has around 84 million people, yes? I don’t really know the population of Alabama offhand but I’d guess between 3 – 5 million. LOL Pretty broad guess there, huh? But I do know that the pop. is nowhere near 84 million. Likewise the literacy rate of Alabama is very likely higher than that of Egypt. I don’t have any numbers on this and I’m not bothering to look them up while simply trying to make the point that comparing Alabama and Egypt is also not a legitimate analogy.

        I don’t know exactly what Friedman wrote regarding this, but it is certainly easier to defraud illiterate people on a written ballot than to do so to people who are literate. It has nothing to do with intelligence nor unsophistication nor whatever, but with the medium of the election.

What Morsi did, was, indeed, effectively a coup. A “self-coup” in which an otherwise legally elected leader assumes for himself powers which have not otherwise been granted to him. Or a power grab. Or a putsch. Whatever.

Those who are excessively weak of stomach and who blanch at the thought of of seeing a superficially “democratic” election overturned by the people spurned in a self-coup can take heart in the knowledge that there are those who suggest that there is such a thing as the concept of a “democratic coup d’état” (despite the protests of critics who say that the phrase is an oxymoron), that is, one in which a dictator is deposed for the purpose of making way for free and fair elections (see Ozan O. Varol, The Democratic Coup d’État, 53 Harv. Int’l L.J. 292 (2012)[Google, Bing, or Startpage the title of this article and it should show in the first several hits – the one for the Harvard International Law Journal website gives one direct access to a simple .pdf version of the article]).

I defy ANYBODY, and that includes the clown collective at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to tell me how it is that in a case like the one we see in Egypt now, the people who stand to be targets of the evil that has been and is the Muslim Brotherhood’s modus operandi have no right to overthrow a leader who has overstepped his bounds, well, just because he wants to, because it gives him tingles, and because it pleases his evil overlords.

Six of one, half a dozen of another — Egypt was and is a dictatorship. For the America, it’s simple matter to choose: which dictatorship is friendlier to us.

Juba Doobai! | July 10, 2013 at 2:31 am

Thugs on the right of us. Thugs on the left of us. The only thing I care about is the wasting of American tax dollars on a bunch of barbarians who cannot feed themselves. If they had the wit that God gave a slug, they would end their Israel hatred and learn how to make their desert bloom,

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