CAIRO – Whether or not Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was pushed aside by a military coup may be debatable, but it is undeniable that the June 30 protest that triggered his ouster was the largest mass movement in Egypt’s history. It was also glaring testimony to the failure of the first phase of Egypt’s revolution.
Politicians, generals, and jurists could not rise above myopic concerns to build the bedrock for a new republic. The forcible removal of an elected president should have been avoided – the liberal opposition could have eased popular anger by demanding that the government make some concessions until legislative elections, which had been set for later this year. With a good showing, they could have then compelled Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to accept the necessary compromises.
The most dangerous consequences of Morsi’s overthrow became apparent on July 8, when security forces in Cairo opened fire on some of the tens of thousands of his supporters who had turned out to call for his reinstatement, killing more than 50 people. Egyptians now fear an outcome like that in Algeria in 1992, when the military scrapped elections and sparked a bloody civil war, or in Pakistan in 1999, when General Pervez Musharraf led a widely celebrated – and soon regretted – coup against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Egypt is at its most volatile since former President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in early 2011. But past mistakes have also taught Egyptians important lessons about what a successful transition demands.