Meir Javedanfar
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Egypt: The Mistake of Toppling Morsi

You can’t fix a democratic issue through the barrel of the gun. Morsi was elected. He should have been removed the same way

The Egyptian army toppling Morsi could be one of the biggest mistakes made in Egypt’s post 2011 revolution history.  

During his term as president, Morsi has made a lot of mistakes. There is no doubt about that. He even tried to challenge Egypt’s newly found democracy by giving himself more power.

We saw a clear example of this last year. According to an article on the 22nd of November in the New York Times:

With a constitutional assembly on the brink of collapse and protesters battling the police in the streets over the slow pace of change, President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree on Thursday granting himself broad powers above any court as the guardian of Egypt’s revolution, and used his new authority to order the retrial of Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi sounds pretty bad. So why would the Egyptian army toppling him be a mistake?

My friend Daniel Brumberg Associate Professor and Co-Director of the MA in Democracy & Governance Studies at Georgetown University and Senior Program Officer, Center for Conflict Management at the US Institute of Peace put it very succinctly on his Facebook page:

If you want to once and for all discredit Authoritarian Islamism, then defeat it at the polls. A military intervention, even one backed by the street, will never achieve the lasting impact of an electoral defeat, and will always leave the impression that those backing the intervention fear that they cannot win an election. Beware the boomerang!

I agree with Dan. Morsi is bad, but toppling him by force, especially through the army could have reverberations around Egypt and perhaps the region for many decades.

Lets not forget that Morsi is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. If they are driven from power through the barrel of the gun instead of through votes at the ballot box, then they could turn to the gun to try to reclaim their lost position. They could adopt the slogan “What was taken away from us by force can only be returned to us by force“.

That could be destabilizing for Egypt and the region. It could also drive Islamists away from participating in the democratic process in other places in the Middle East, thus radicalizing them even more.

Also, we all want democracy for Egypt, don’t we? So since when toppling democratically elected leaders by force is democratic?

In other words, we must ask the question: would toppling Morsi by force turn Egypt of 2013 into Algeria of 1992 ?

I am not an Egypt expert. There are people such as Brian Whitaker and my colleague Nervana Mahmoud who know Egypt far better than me.  But all I can say is that in my opinion you can’t fix what is a democratic issue through the barrel of the gun. Morsi was elected. He was brought to power through the ballot box, and he must be removed the same way, if stable democracy is what we want.

About the Author
Meir Javedanfar is an Iranian-Israeli lecturer, author, and commentator. He has been teaching Iranian politics at Reichman University in Israel since 2012 and is Anti-Defamation League’s Iran consultant.