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As protests, riots and armed insurrection explode across the cities of Egypt, one overriding fact has become clear. Mohammed Morsi, the first flag bearer of Egyptian democracy, has failed.
There are many reasons why Morsi’s administration has been such a disaster, and not
all of them stem from his personal direction. Perhaps his resignation is not necessary to
restore order, but nothing short of a major and decisive policy shift will come close. The
government has failed to live up to the democratic promise of an awakened Egypt.
First, it is important to remember that Morsi was never an inspiring candidate for the vast majority of Egyptians; he was the lesser evil compared to Ahmed Shafik, a vestige of the hated Mubarak regime. With such a tenuous mandate, he should have compromised and reached out to secularists to address a host of issues, such as high unemployment, low economic diversity, equal rights and corruption.
But in ramming through a much-criticized (and Islamic-leaning) constitution as well as
his attempt to seize near-dictatorial powers last fall, Morsi has alienated the populace and his political opposition. These early moves have created political squabbles where broad, decisive action was needed. Hope for any serious coalition is fading fast as the blame game heats up in tandem with the unrest.
The growing chaos and crippled government cast a familiar but highly unwelcome
shadow over Egyptian politics: military intervention. The defense minister, Gen. Abdul
Fattah el-Sisi, recently criticized the politicians and their squabbles, saying that “their
disagreement…may lead to the collapse of the state and threatens the future.” He
portrayed the political divisiveness as a threat to national security and a serious concern of the military.
While a coup does not appear to be imminent, the spreading violence could eventually
force the military’s hand. In a country with a long history of a politically powerful
military, their support (or lack thereof) would be the ultimate decider for yet another
Egyptian government. How deeply the armed forces are committed to democracy is
anyone’s guess. For the great experiment begun two years ago in Tahrir Square, a
takeover could be a death knell.
Mohammed Morsi has two options: he can either resign his position, or engage his
opponents to build a coalition to solve the young democracy’s deeply ingrained
problems. If he cannot choose, the military may make both his position and the young
democracy a thing of the past.