I’m not near my laptop at the moment, so I’ll post my thoughts about Mohamed Morsi’s forced departure from Egypt’s presidency and the country’s broader problems from my mobile phone.
I get how Americans — with the mainstream media’s help — are pretty shocked over the idea that Egypt’s military can arrest Morsi and begin dictating the terms for how the near-term government will be run, especially since this is the day America celebrates its independence and democratic roots, but I’m not as stunned. besides, I’m worried about bigger and more urgent problems Egypt needs to face. Here are some points to consider…
First, I take a partial cue, with a big emphasis on partial, from Israel’s general viewpoint on Democracy among Arabs in the Middle East where we can’t expect Egypt to handle its business like the way America does. The two countries’ histories and cultures are very different, and you should obviously recognize that America is still trying to get its own democracy formula straight after all these years.
Second, call Egypt’s regime change a coup if you like, but this is probably more like America’s recall process (laughing), minus the signatures. More important, did you notice that upwards of 10 million people took to the streets demanding that Morsi step down? That number trumps the crowds who wanted to see Hosni Mubarak go. Couple that thought with the thin victory margin won by Morsi in the election that brought him to power in the first place and you become convinced that Morsi’s days had to be numbered.
Third, The Egyptian military left one big clue that it didn’t impose interim laws of its own imagination — it borrowed the six-step roadmap to elections set by Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement — clear opponents of both Mubarak and Morsi. Looks like an obvious shout-out to me.
My fourth point may be most important: Morsi was a lousy President with a penchant for alienating folks, but his biggest challenge was his inability to tame an economy that’s spinning out of control. Egypt imports at least 40% of its food and is a net importer of oil, making the country vulnerable to market events like what occurred in 2011 or similar shocks. If that’s not a sufficiently ugly matter, consider that Egypt’s currency reserves are on an express track to zero, and it has a looming debt crisis. Saudi Arabia has been an important partner to preventing Egypt’s financial implosion at the moment. 40 percent of Egypt’s citizens live on USD 2 per day, the country’s workforce has no marketable value to speak of, and about 40% of the population is illiterate.
All this makes me think the roots for revolution in the future are baked into today’s cake. The masses may not be able to read or understand the national economy, but they know what poor means and they know how to hold a brick. The military has repeatedly stated that it has no interest in politics, but it effectively controls Egypt’s economy thanks to the massive aid it receives from the US and the industries that are fed from this aid. Perhaps the military can lend the next President of Egypt some loot…
song currently stuck in my head: “apache (jump on it)” – the sugarhill gang