Avoiding Algeria in Egypt

PORTO – The military coup that has overthrown Egypt’s first democratically elected president and led to the arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders across the country poses an enormous danger not only for Egypt’s democratic transition, but for the democratic hopes of the entire Arab world as well.

The fact that the coup was undertaken with massive popular support is a sign of the enormous difficulties faced by the Muslim Brotherhood during its first turn in power. President Mohamed Morsi’s government struggled to address Egypt’s inherited economic and social crises in the face of the enormous public expectations created by the 2011 revolution, whose protagonists sought not only freedom, but also economic development and social justice.

Of course, the Muslim Brotherhood was also a victim of its own mistakes, particularly the failure of Morsi and his government to reach out to the secular opposition, elements of which had contributed to his election. The Morsi government seemed incapable of understanding that a slim electoral majority is not enough, especially nowadays.

Indeed, the breadth of the opposition to Morsi reflects a major global tendency toward the empowerment of the educated and connected middle classes, whose members tend to be suspicious of political parties and demand more direct political participation. In this sense, Egypt’s difficulties differ only in scope, not in kind, from those faced by governments in Turkey, Brazil, and even Europe.