Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Observations on Egypt

I'll just highlight a few points made in this article:

1. The success of the "tamarrod" campaign has exceeded expectations, but without wanting to rain on anyone's parade, we knew already that the left/secular democrats could be very effective on the streets. The question since February 2011 has been whether they can be effective at the ballot box and in shaping the country's political and constitutional settlement post-Mubarak. That question remains unanswered. Whatever happens over the next few days, its meaning will be very limited if the opposition can't make itself effective away from the streets and public squares. This is not a criticism, by the way. Merely an observation. One has to be mindful of the huge obstacles the revolutionaries face. But whatever the reasons, the problem is real.


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3. The suggestion has been made more than once that the Brotherhood's opponents are essentially little more than sore electoral losers. This was always a slightly fatuous argument, given the concrete and substantive criticisms made of Morsi's conduct as President, and it is surely discredited now. Millions have not flooded onto the streets due to political sour grapes. If Morsi had governed effectively, or at least in good faith, and as the President of Egypt rather than in the narrow interests of the Brothers, then none of this would be happening. Juan Cole has a goodbreakdown here of the fundamentally anti-democratic way in which the MB has conducted itself. As Ahdaf Soueif points out, winning an election does not give you the right to do what you please for four years. It obliges you to honour a covenant with the electorate. For many Egyptians, that covenant has been broken, delegitimising the Morsi regime.

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4. Casual racists in the Western commentariat who told us that lifting the autocrat rock in the Arab world would reveal nothing but Islamist bugs underneath need to explain to us where all those people came from yesterday. It was clear to any informed observer, and is now undeniable, that Arab politics is diverse, contested space (which includes Muslims shocked and alienated by the behaviour of the Brotherhood). These societies are no more ideologically homogenous than any others around the world.

6. The multitudes on the streets are a big warning signal for the IMF and Egyptian policymakers of whatever stripe seeking to force the cost of decades of economic mismanagement onto the Egyptian population through structural adjustment and austere loan conditionality. Good luck getting the people to accept any of that, in the current climate.
Yes, the problems are real for the revolutionary secularists to translate their success on the streets to success in forming a government, and yes, attempts to impose neoliberal "shock therapy" are going to be non-starters for the workers in Egypt. As of this writing, it is very obvious that Morsi's hours are numbered. The military has rejected Morsi's "concessions", and I would expect him to either be ousted or at the least holed up in a compound by the time I can get back to this blog later tonight.

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