Just hours after the Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from office on Wednesday leading Muslim and Christian clerics announced their support for an army-sponsored plan to suspend the constitution and hold early elections according to Egypt’s state-controlled Ahram Online.
Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, one of the highest authorities on Sunni Islam, and Pope Tawadros II, the head of Egypt’s Coptic Church, sat beside one another in a symbolic gesture of sectarian unity as General al-Sisi announced the transition plan on Egyptian State Television.
The general was also surrounded by other noteworthy Muslim, secularist and liberal political leaders in a show of consensus that could help Egyptian military leaders garner support for their plan in Washington.
Reactions from the White House and the State Department have been ambiguous, although President Barack Obama expressed deep concern over the removal of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president and called for a quick return to civilian leadership.
In May Secretary of State John Kerry quietly approved $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt despite the country’s failure to meet congressional democracy standards. U.S. law requires non-humanitarian aid to be cut-off to any country “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état.”
The New York Times reported that after al-Sisi spoke Morsi released a defiant video over a presidential website saying, “I am the elected president of Egypt,” and asked everyone to sit with him and negotiate.
The site was quickly shut down, prompting Morsi to e-mail journalists a statement that called the takeover “a complete military coup” categorically rejected by all the free people of Egypt who have struggled to turn the country into “a civil democratic society.”
The military refused to describe Wednesday’s arrest of Morsi as a coup and instead characterized it as an effort to achieve “national reconciliation.”
Morsi’s ouster strikes a devastating blow to the Islamist agenda across the region, illustrating that political Islam is ill-suited for governance and should be relegated to its former status as a social movement.
However, according to an Associated Press analysis, the Islamist fringe may conclude that violence is the only way to fulfill “their dream of an Islamic state,” as opposed to democracy, which many viewed as heresy in the first place.
But millions of Egyptian protesters believe Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood overreached, abused power and failed at democracy. The Brothers consolidated power beyond their mandate and made the tragic mistake of assuming their “Islamist project” was acceptable to the society at large.
Morsi did not follow through on his promises to establish an inclusive government, has proven incapable of addressing the country’s severe economic woes and was unable to accept criticism, evidenced by his administration’s policies of jailing dissenters and squashing freedom of the press.
Michael W. Hanna of the Century Foundation believes “Morsi's abysmal performance during their short tenure is a tale of how not to guide and rule."
By every measure available Morsi's economic program turned out to be an abject failure. Foreign currency reserves could barely cover three months of imports in a country that relies on foreign sources for 70% of its food. Egypt is also suffering from skyrocketing inflation, reduced tourism revenue, capital flight, lack of foreign direct investment and high levels of unemployment.
The IMF has been prepared to extend Egypt a $4.8 billion loan if Cairo implemented fiscal reforms, such as eradicating fuel and food subsidies and raising consumption taxes.
The Brotherhood fueled violent protests at the end of last year when it rammed through an Islamist-drafted constitution that neglected the rights of women and minorities.
In addition, Morsi's rule by fiat gradually weakened the role of parliament. Professor M. Steven Fish, a political scientist from the University of California at Berkeley, told this reporter during an interview for The Huffington Post in March that Morsi’s concentration of power was "poison for democracy."
But the political opposition has been unable to make political hay of the rising public indignation and has failed to put forth its own serious proposals to rectify the country’s ills. The opposition has been hamstrung by major philosophical differences between its socialist and pro-business wings.
Some experts believe the opposition needs a unifying leader, a coherent economic strategy and a better coordinated and more disciplined ground game if it is going to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood’s well-oiled electoral juggernaut.
Michael Hughes is a freelance journalist and foreign policy analyst. For similar articles go to www.HughesWorldNews.com