With Cairo erupting in joy late on Wednesday night with the Egyptian Army ousting the country’s first democratically elected president Mohammad Morsi, it is time to reflect back on the two years of political upheavals that marked the post Mubarak period. It is also a moment of bitter irony for Egypt’s liberal, secular intelligentsia and its youth, who were fed up with Morsi’s increasingly authoritarian conduct, such as granting himself far-reaching powers and immunity from judicial review. Hence, when on 25 January 2013, the second anniversary of the uprising at Tahrir Square that defined the Arab Spring of 2011, protesters gathered and chanted for Morsi’s ouster for the first time, barely seven months after he was elected as the first president of a civilian government, particularly after three decades of secular dictatorship under Hosni Mubarak, it was a strange feeling. Five months into the relaunch of the popular protest movement, Mohammad Morsi has been put under house arrest, while 300 of his state functionaries and members of the Islamist party Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested. The constitution, that was accused of being a hurried job by the liberals, has been dissolved, ironically enough, by the same military, with which Egypt has had an ugly relationship, crushed under its powerful thumb that it stayed for decades. In a caustic turn of events, the popular will seems have merged with the military diktat as they two, at loggerheads until a year back, fused to topple the nascent regime of Mohammad Morsi-led Muslim Brotherhood.
Evidently, this could be read as a setback to the champions of liberal democracy, if electoral politics is considered as its only indicator. Mohammad Morsi, who had assumed power on 30 June 2012 after Muslim Brother swept the upper and lower houses of Egyptian parliament, was of course a popular choice, elected in a free and fair election. Less than a year later, he stands disgraced and deposed. This, though a testament to the ultimate power that now lies in the hands of the citizens, however, needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Is falling back on military supervision a fate that Egypt would find hard to escape? Will there be a cycle of popular elections, resentment and protests followed by military intervention and quasi coups in the name of enforcing will of the people? In a macabre twist of fate, Egypt Nobel peace laureate Mohammed El Braradei now stands shoulder to shoulder with head of Army General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who declared in a televised address that the constitution had been suspended and the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Chief Justice Adli Mansour, would be acting as the interim president. But how can El Baradei condone the shutting down of four television channels that were broadcasting the pro-Morsi rallies, or the fact that there have been violence from both sides, and furthermore, taking into custody the rank and file of Muslim Brotherhood? If Morsi’s fate is an indicator, then political Islam has been dealt a blow, and has a resonance with other global protest movements such as those in Bangladesh’s Shahbag Square or in Turkey’s Taksim Square. Yet, hobnobbing with the army and repeatedly imposing emergencies might not be in the best interests of Egypt in the long run.