Thursday, 15 August 2013

Hard to sympathise with Morsi in light of Egypt's recent history

Egypt's new round of bloodshed is drawing condemnation from many people but it's hard to sympathise with Morsi, the elected president since removed from power by the army. His supporters have been protesting on the streets and it's their blood that is now darkening pavements in Egypt as live ammunition is being used in addition to tear gas by the armed forces.

Egyptian democracy seems to belong to the streets. Back in December I wrote about new protests by the country's liberals against measures taken by Morsi and his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, in an effort to mold Egypt's polity in their own image. Those protests were repeated six months later, in June, which led the army to remove the president from office on 3 July. Instead of regular elections, Egypt has had regular street protests, with the army fulfilling the functions of the head of state and the ballot counters, combined.

In December Egypt's liberals - and no doubt many of its Christians - were complaining about special powers the president had abrogated for himself in order to place himself in a position of immunity with regards to the country's judiciary. That move was in the context of the drafting of the country's constitution, which Morsi had delegated to a panel of individuals dominated by Islamists. Protests therefore focused on the inclusion of words considered too close to sharia.

It's therefore hard to sympathise with Morsi, even though some Western liberals are now doing so - the same people who probably complained about Morsi's actions late last year. The fact is that Morsi has had plenty of time to listen to the views of regular Egyptians. Each time those views were heard Morsi ignored them, preferring to steamroller through the obstacle rather than find a point of consensus that all could agree on. It has been this tendency from Morsi's political party - to crash or crash through - that removes so much of the potential pathos from their current plight in the face of military fiat, and the use of live ammunition to break up street protests. On whose hands is the blood being spilled now?

Morsi had plenty of opportunities to find another way through the debate. The fact that he failed means that many people who would otherwise sympathise with him and his supporters will look on current events with disinterest. Many will be merely waiting for the machine to go through its motions - a bit like in the case of Thailand or Fiji - so that eventually a new government can be elected by popular vote. Let's hope that whoever wins office then has more sense than to completely ignore the views of their political opponents.

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