Lessons Learned in Egypt
What Mohamed Morsi can learn from Mohamed Naguib
In its recent past, Egypt has seen three governing systems: In 1953 the country’s monarchy was replaced by military rule and in 2012 this was replaced by civil democratic rule.
While Egypt’s most recent government may have been democratically elected, the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood have transformed it into a military government in civilian clothing. The Brotherhood, under a veil of democracy, acts with the same authoritarian style that the military did during the July 1952 revolution: by singling people out according to their opinions and beliefs and by sending their officials into every limb of the state to assert party control—after the promise of democracy had brought them into power.
Mohamed Naguib famously said: “We got rid of a king, and we got thirteen other kings.” The 2011 Egyptian revolution managed to remove Hosni Mubarak, only to replace him with a party full of Hosni Mubaraks. The two periods resemble each other to such an extent that Mohamed Naguib could have been describing the current revolution, rather than that of his colleagues in 1954, when he said: “It was known at the time how atrocious the crimes of the revolution were against people’s rights, it was known at the time into what kind of quagmire we threw the Egyptian people, they lost their freedom, they lost their dignity, they lost their land and their problems got worse…the sewers overflowed, water became scarce, crisis flared, manners disappeared, and men were lost. Where were the great goals of the revolution?”
The difference between Mohamed Naguib and Mohamed Morsi is that the former stood with the people against his party, but the latter stands with his party against the people. Naguib’s stance meant that the people returned him to the presidency after his resignation, in protest against decisions that were choking democracy, and ignoring the will of the people. Perhaps Mohamed Morsi’s position, so out of touch with the people who stood in defiance against him on June 30, is a consequence of his bias towards his group—a bias has led him to fill government establishments with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. His failure to establish important institutions such as the Ministry for Media and Culture and to appoint a suitable Governor for Luxor, (who resigned despite himself to spare the land and economy the consequences of a poor appointment), and the issuing of dictatorial decrees that have led to the resignation of officials, have fuelled the anger against him.
And yet, a new revolution is not required to correct the course of the hijacked revolution. Mohamed Morsi could potentially douse the flames of the crisis in one day and with one speech if he answers the demands of the people—no matter how big or small—and retreats from aggravating political appointments and authoritarian decisions in order to create a unified Egyptian brotherhood, not just a Muslim Brotherhood. Those who urge him to be firmer are only drawing him into a struggle that is persisting in the streets.
In the unlikely scenario that Morsi emerges victorious from this event, it will be a victory for two particular parties, not a national victory that will lead to political stability and economic growth. The solution lies not in distrusting the opposition but in reconciling with them. Rather than searching for the threads of conspiracy, Morsi could search for middle ground solutions to cure the crisis. President Morsi’s last speech did not have a conciliatory tone, and highlighted that he relies heavily on the support of his party and defenders. But just as the Free Officers Movement isolated Naguib, the Muslim Brotherhood could end up isolating Morsi when it pushes him into an open encounter with the popular opposition. The events of June 30 could prove to be just the beginning.