Sunday, July 7, 2013

Obsession for grand things in one season: Egypt's Arab Spring

There is a growing obsession to achieve grand things in one season. The Arab Spring that swept Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya has shown that regime change is possible through popular revolt. In the three regime changes, the long-running authoritarian regimes were toppled. Then we thought that democracy would take root and blossom.

A year after in Egypt, that Spring has returned. As any season, the spring is entitled to have a spot in a year. Millions of Egyptians took hold of the season and brazenly showed its colors on the streets. They reflected on the sky as military helicopters carried red, white, and black.

And so we thought.

After ousting Mubarak from power, democratic election was held to determine who would replace him. It took two rounds of voting which were both very tight races. In the first round, Morsi of Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party topped with 24.78 percent of the total votes. The next candidate, Shafik, who was independent but closely associated with the ousted regime, got 23.66 percent. The top two candidates combined could not even muster majority of the votes cast in the first round. In fact the third placer in the first round, Sabahi, had 20.72 percent of the total votes. Thus, the run-off between Morsi and Shafik was on. It was a proxy fight between anti-Mubarak protesters and Mubarak loyalists. Morsi won the run-off with only 51.73 percent of the votes. It was clear that the country was divided, and the Morsi from the first round was not a popular choice among Egyptians.

After a year in power, Morsi was confronted with mass protests all over the country, calling for his ouster. The protesters were still enamored by the ideals of Arab Spring - one of which is regime change. However, the difference this time was that Morsi was in power because he was democratically elected with a fixed term. Nonetheless, the call for his ouster grew and grew louder until the military stepped in. That sealed Morsi's fate, but not his grip on and appeal to legitimacy of his power.

With all what the military did, it is very difficult to see the regime change and take-over of power as not a coup. First, it was the military who gave the 48-hour ultimatum to Morsi. In the effort to appease the protesters and military, Morsi offered a dialogue towards reconciliation. The offer was rejected by the protesters. Second, it was the military who drew the roadmap of the post-Morsi regime. The military through its Chief of Staff General El-Sisi acted on its ultimatum by ousting Morsi from power and detailing its roadmap to suspend the constitution, dissolve parliament, and form an interim council until a fresh election is held. Third, probably on the side, the military arrested the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the elected president. Whatever people may call it, coup is looming on its shadow.

Now, the Muslim Brotherhood is threatening mass protests and veiled violence against those who violated the rights of their leaders and to restore and respect democratic institutions. In a democracy, regime change is through election.

Exceptions are welcome for a regime change. In turbulent times and conditions, the tempest of those in power must be tamed. Again, Egypt is under the tempest of Arab Spring. But the power is clearly at the hands of the military. Until now, the military's roadmap coincides with the protesters' will. But the details, and so the devil, reside in the post-Morsi scenario.

Seasons come in full circle, regardless of people's conditions. After spring, the summer heat may be too much. The discontent lingers, and so the obsession for grand things in life.

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