Thursday 4 July 2013

A very Egyptian coup

Liberals applauding a military coup? OK, it happened in Portugal in 1974, but that ousted a dictator, not an elected president.

Yet the people with whom most liberals would most readily identify in Egypt seem to be the ones on the streets hailing what in plain English is a military coup.

The reasons for this curious turn of events lie in the deep suspicion in which secular Egyptians hold political Islamists.

I recall meeting Egyptian liberals at Liberal International congresses. They were members of opposition parties tolerated in the Mubarak era so long as they remained unthreatening to the regime and of limited effect.

They wanted to see democracy in Egypt but were worried that, as the only organised political force of any significance, the Muslim Brotherood would win, and would need only to ‘win once’, before imposing a religious regime that would allow even less opposition than did Mubarak.

Indeed, on grounds of free speech, religious freedom and women’s rights, I well remember Egyptian liberals saying they would prefer the Mubarak regime any day to a Brotherhood government.

Therefore the problem arises of how both these substantial currents of opinion can be accommodated within one democracy when each believes the other to be a mortal threat to its interests and well-being.

Tunisia seems slightly more successful in ushering in democracy after the Arab spring, and in Morocco the king has resolved to be a constitutional monarch.

In Egypt, the army may end up holding the ring for longer than it planned.

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