What happened in Egypt was a quick knockout. The ousted president and the Muslim Brotherhood were unable to detect the coming danger although the deadline was already set, the crowds had previously announced their plans, and the calls to overthrow the regime were getting louder.
I believe that the Egyptian army itself did not expect the streets and squares all over the country to be filled with millions, even if the army had inevitably planned to intervene in case of danger or anarchy.
We now have two teams of people and one event. The winners: the opposition coalition, which feels that the majority of people supports them and granted them “legitimacy,” just as it was taken from former President Hosni Mubarak. The losers: the Muslim Brotherhood who are in shock and cannot believe the outcome of the events; believing that they are the sole holders of presidential “legitimacy” and will fight to recover it.
Since the army is a backer of the second revolution, it surprised everyone by its ability to plan, intervene, and lead an unprecedented quick and flawless eradication process.
In just one day, the army overthrew an entire regime; a president, a prime Minister, a government and its major departments. The Egyptian army succeeded in one day to appoint under the constitution, a civilian president who was sworn in before the judges, religious and civilian authorities. The army has also refrained from taking over the prime ministry as rumored before, and announced that it will remain a civilian army. Moreover, military leaders avoided the release of several statements and briefed their appearances in one statement announcing their intervention and its causes. This is what has made the West, in particular, hesitate to label what happened as a military "coup," because the scene that involved millions of Egyptian people, exceeded the number of the first revolution; the army has – at least seemingly – handed the country to civilian leadership.
We fear that the revolutionaries forget today the lessons learnt from the near past, and commit the same errors as the Muslim Brotherhood who took for granted the people's support. In fact, the people will be their first opponent rather than their ally, because people are now expecting a happy ending after knocking down Mursi and blaming him for economic distresses, among others. The people gave Mursi one year and overthrew him, and they might come out a year from now, or less, to repeat the events.
Lessons from the past
The first lesson: Time is the enemy. If what is leaked in the media that the transition phase will last for two years turned to be true, it will be a huge mistake and the transitional regime would have sentenced itself to death. We will witness a year from now, the reemergence of complaints and demonstrations, the victors will pull in different directions, and the Muslim Brotherhood who are more skilled than the opposition, will work on provoking the public opinion against the army and the interim government. The army has to work on early parliamentary and presidential elections, and before that, it should work on a new constitution and referendum.
The second lesson: To avoid hurting the opposition. Despite the swiftness of the "coup," the attack against the media was a mistake. Nowadays, the regime cannot silence the criticism. This is a battle of opinions, thoughts and actions and those who are irritated must express their beliefs. Silencing them would be temporarily. Even the pro-government television channels will criticize and provoke the people against the new regime; this is the nature of the media, a platform for the complaining voices.
The third lesson: ethics are as important as the regulations. The majority of the people are against injustice, reprisal, oppression, humiliation, revenge and especially after what was done to President Mubarak, his sons and relatives after the first revolution.
It has generated split and criticism, not because the people doubted the justifications, but because what happened was against the Egyptian human morality. Nobility, loyalty, decency and tolerance are qualities embedded in the people; they have been raised to love and treat their opponents well.
These are not only Arabs ethics; what Mahatma Gandhi did in India will be remembered forever, and this is the case for Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and King Abdul Aziz who unified Saudi Arabia, forgave his opponents, deepened the ties with them and appointed some of them in senior positions. President Mursi and his associates made a mistake, but political issues are not physics or math. In politics, there are a plethora of interpretations upon which the people almost never unanimously agree. The army and transitional government should work towards national reconciliation that would include all the persecuted persons, and involve them in a joint venture that would end the crisis and establish a state of institutions for the coming century.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 6, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.