Why Egypt Likely Won't See Democratic Stability After Ousting Morsi

Jul 5, 2013

Anti-Morsi protest in downtown Cairo - August 31, 2012
Credit Gigi Ibrahim / Flickr Creative Commons

Earlier this week a top judge replaced Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi as Egypt’s president as the army cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

In his final days in power, Egypt's embattled president was defiant even though his allies abandoned him.

Record numbers of protesters gathered in Alexandria and Cairo on June 30 calling for Morsi’s removal, resignation, or early presidential elections. Incoming University of Oklahoma Middle East scholar and Muslim Brotherhood expert Samer Shehata says the millions of protesters exceeded his expectations of the June 30 movement.

“Their criticisms [have] to do with incredibly poor leadership [and] the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood was entrenching in state institutions - making their removal through elections in the future impossible,” Shehata says.

The Obama administration has turned to its top officials to tout democracy and political transparency for Egypt. Their message took on a hollow tone as the Egyptian military installed a new leader for the country and began rounding up ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his supporters.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says that the Obama administration stood by Morsi until the demonstrations showed the likelihood of political violence.

“Congress has passed a law that all U.S. aid, which is $1.3 billion, has to be stopped in case of a coup," Landis says. "But a number of Senators have stood forward and said we have to play it by ear. If there can be a transition back to some kind of democratic representation and quick elections, then we can resume that aid. Everything can go back to what it was.”

Shehata says the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups are angry and indignant, because no one called the integrity of the elections that democratically-elected Morsi into question. But he calls the actions of the military a “popular-supported coup.”

“It wasn't seven military officers removing a president or another military officer in the middle of the night. There were millions of people on the streets protesting in record numbers,” Shehata says. “It's certainly not the best of all options because there is of course the principle of not removing a democratically-elected leader, and of course that's been violated quite significantly.”

Shehata says he doesn’t anticipate chaos and civil strife as Egypt prepares to elect its third president in three years, but Egypt won’t see inclusive political stability where everyone believes in the system and is allowed to participate.

“The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, I think, are going to be excluded institutionally or otherwise,” Shehata says. “And that's certainly not a recipe for democratic stability.”