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Egypt: A divided march to democracy

Farouk Al-Salihi

Published: Updated:

Observers of the Egyptian scene are divided over the Armed Forces' decision to depose Mursi from the presidency. But whether last week's move marked a victory to the public or a coup, most would agree that the decision has created a deep political and social divide, and nobody can predict its consequences.

It is not easy to judge the choices made by the Armed Forces or President Mursi prior to June 30, but it is easier to say that both choices did not exhaust the democratic options. It is a fact that Mursi came to power through free democratic elections; however, many of his actions during his presidency were far from democratic - consider the many confrontations with the judiciary against legal procedures, and the constitutional decree in which he gave himself absolute legal immunity.

Mursi failed to deliver during his year and refused to make tangible compromises to the liberal revolutionary groups, his electorate. Being the first president after the January revolution, Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood ruled the country by the minimum requirements of democracy, mainly the electoral majority. He underestimated the value of inclusion and adherence to existing laws. Above all, his biggest judgment was his response to the mass demonstrations on June 30, when he refused to step aside or concede to any deal with the liberals. On the contrary, he delivered a defiant speech understood by many observers as igniting violent confrontations between his opponent and supporting demonstrators. Mursi proved that he believes in public choice as a means to come to power but not to get out, a narrow and yet costly vision.

Egyptians are more likely to continue their pursuit of democracy, but it is clear it will be a long and divided march susceptible to bloodshed and bitter compromises.

Farouk Al-Salihi

The Armed Forces justified its decision to depose Mursi by preventing bloody clashes between his opponents and supporters. However, the action was taken quickly and before such a threat materialized. Mursi was given two days' warning while Mubrak was given eighteen days until the Armed Forces turned against him. Further, the Armed Forces did not publically propose any settlement deal before deposing Mursi which indicates that they took the incident as an opportunity and publically plausible justification to return to power.

The opposition had been preparing for that massive demonstration on June 30 for several months, but in the meantime it was negotiating a deal with the Armed Forces - either because it didn’t trust its capability to force Mursi to step aside through demonstrations, or because of fear of violent confrontations with his supporters. But whatever its rationale was it has taken a historical responsibility of brining the military back to power.

Worst of all, the outcome of deposing Mursi through the Armed Forces is a big setback to the infant Egyptian democratic experience and a deep cut in the social fabric. The political developments in Egypt since January 2011 show that there is no revolution without the military, and no democracy without the Islamists - and each has a price.

The ouster of Mursi has aggravated public protests and confrontations, culminating about 90 fatalities and hundreds of injuries so far, and worse is expected to come. Deadly attacks have been reported against some military personnel which refutes the Armed Forces' calculations when they devised the coup.

Deposing Mursi has officially divided the revolutionary factions, a step that may result in aborting the democratic experience itself. There is some doubt over Muslim Brotherhood factions collaborating in future elections, having won 47 percent of the seats in the first presidential elections after the revolution. Egyptians are more likely to continue their pursuit of democracy, but it is clear it will be a long and divided march susceptible to bloodshed and bitter compromises.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.