By Humayun Gauhar
Have you ever heard of a coup by prior announcement under a deadline? Well, it came to pass last Wednesday when the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi’s year old government that was still going through colic pains. Problem is that he had given colic pains to his people too, so they howled and cried until the ultimate Third World doctor removed the pain.
A year ago Morsi won Egypt’s presidential elections by a whisker. A year later he is out. He won because:
1. Elections were held under an earlier military command that had removed President Hosni Mubarak and that didn’t resist Morsi’s coming to power.
2. Having fought for their freedoms and won, voters preferred anyone but a Mubarak clone or a Pet of the West, even someone from the Muslim Brotherhood.
3. Morsi’s main opponents were a Mubarak leftover and an American stooge.
4. The Muslim Brotherhood had never been tried in 80 years since its inception.
5. Morsi said the things they wanted to hear.
Morsi was removed because:
1. Morsi sacked the military high command that had not impeded his ascension to power after becoming president causing undoubted resentment in the forces.
2. Tried to move closer to Iran that undoubtedly riled America and Saudi Arabia.
3. Moved to implementing the Brotherhood’s agenda that is at variance with the people’s agenda for a better life.
4. He forgot the mandate the people had given him.
Thus it came to pass that his mandate and with it his legitimacy ended regardless of majority and term remaining. Time up.
But military rule is not the answer. Governments elected through western electoral systems are not the answer either for alien systems produce sham democracy. Such governments are inevitably unable to deliver and their poor performance gives birth to military rule. It’s a viscous cycle and a conundrum. Unless there is a social contract amongst people on how exactly run the State along indigenous lines that they understand and can work with, no system can succeed, for the prime purpose of creating states is the betterment of the people. If that doesn’t happen you have turmoil and states collapse for their raison d’etre evaporates.
I said last week that when it comes to choosing between saving the State or saving the constitution, a sane citizen chooses the State. Soldiers are conditioned and sworn to save the State from those who would destroy it, local or foreign. Any sane person would rather amputate his cancerous limb and save himself than let the limb remain while the body perishes. The whole idea behind protecting limbs is to save the body. However, if a limb starts destroying the body it gets cut off.
Correct me if I am wrong, but this is the first time in history that an army has mounted a coup after announcing a 48-hour deadline that it would intervene unless warring politicians forged a consensus. They didn’t because they couldn’t and the army moved, put the constitution to rest and promised to hold elections in a year. Egypt’s political evolution is moving fast. Stage I: fall of Mubarak. Stage II: The military interregnum and elections. Stage III: the Morsi Era and his removal. Stage IV: Next military era and the Brotherhood’s backlash. What will Stage V be?
That the same people who celebrated the fall of dictatorship not two years ago celebrated the fall of democracy two years later shouldn’t surprise. First they created the justification for the military to remove the dictator. Now they created the justification for the military to remove the democrat. Because the idea is not removing dictators or democrats but having their aspirations met. It highlights our lack of understanding of three vital concepts: elections and the will of the people, democracy and mandate.
The will of the people is best ascertained through elections that are as direct as possible, without any electoral colleges as in the USA or parliamentary systems in which the lower house becomes a small electoral college where what matters is not how many popular votes you get but how many seats you win. In such systems, we get popular losers in the USA or prime ministers with minority party votes in the first-past-the-post parliamentary system but a majority of seats in the lower house. The Egyptians adopted the French quasi-presidential quasi-parliamentary system because of their historic French overhang.
In a more democratic system the winner would have to win more than 50 percent of the vote cast in a two-candidate race in a second ballot if necessary (which Morsi did) if no one gets a majority in the first ballot. That brings us closer to the will of the people. Closer still is that all registered voters should cast their votes, which is why it is preferable to have a box on the ballot paper with the option ‘None of the above’. If this box gets more than a certain percentage of votes there is a reelection. The winning candidate will then have to get more than 50 percent of the entire electorate, which is still not perfect – nothing crafted by man is – but it comes closest to ascertaining the will of the people. So until we evolve an electoral system that truly reflects the will of the people democracy will remain wanting because people will question it during hard times regardless of majorities.
As to democracy, we get hooked onto catchphrases like ‘Of the people, for the people, by the people’. That has hardly ever happened anywhere yet we are conditioned to believe that elections automatically dispense democracy. Actually, people are only used to cast votes after whatever fashion to create the optics of participation. The reality is that power always remains in the hands of a small ruling elite driven by the Deep State that includes the hegemon whose will is inevitably followed. Objectives essential to arriving at a true democracy, like a balanced society, justice and egalitarianism, the State’s duty to provide its people’s basic needs in quality and quantity…are not really in the equation. As we are seeing, electoral systems are becoming inadequate even in their countries of birth. Rulers are profligate, lack wisdom, spend more than they earn and borrow recklessly leaving their people in debt, deprivation and dependence. Such states lose some quantum of their sovereignty to the hegemon-lender and are forced to do his will that is in the hegemon’s self-interest naturally. When governments fail to walk the talk a time comes when the people explode, there is anarchy and the State sinks deeper into the quagmire. A pitiful comment on CNN by an Egyptian analyst said it all: “I don’t think the US President or US army would allow the [Egyptian] army to do this.” It underlines the pathetic condition that degenerate Muslim ruling elites have degraded their peoples to. It’s an illness. Those poor protesters on Tehrir Square don’t know where their fates are really decided.
As to mandate, it is a brief entrusted to someone to achieve certain objectives, like hiring a lawyer. When people elect a government they give it a brief or mandate to make their lives better by solving urgent problems. Morsi’s brief was just that but he deviated from it, tried to impose religious fascism and forgot about his client’s economic well being. Food and fuel costs, joblessness and crime rose. The economy collapsed. When people got no delivery after a year they withdrew their mandate by exploding. Morsi lost his mandate despite his majority. An elected ruler’s continuing legitimacy lies not in having won elections but in implementing his mandate. When he fails he loses his legitimacy. That’s democracy, not hanging on to a particular government till the next elections and suffering all the while as western commentators keep saying. If that were true, what happened to the elected prime minister of Greece and the president of Italy? Why weren’t they allowed to complete their terms? They were removed by the power of banks and bond markets assisted two European hegemons. That’s even more pathetic than military intervention.
The West should understand that foisting western electoral democracy down the throats of Muslim countries won’t work, for it flies in the face of the Divine injunction to choose leaders from amongst the best. Elections western style causes people to choose their leaders from amongst the worst for only the worst are on offer, their oppressors who need the protective cloak of being “representatives of the people”. These systems may work in the West but now even that is becoming moot. This is not to say that there should be no democracy. To the contrary, when God tells us to “choose” our leaders it implies the democratic process of choice. What is required is that only those who are from amongst the best stand for elections and not every Tom, Dick, Harry and Thief. Morsi was none of these, but he deviated from his brief and like most Third World politicians made the ground fertile for military intervention.