Egyptian masses may have no experience of democracy; but their instincts are better than those of some Western “progressives”.
The latest evidence of such profoundly flawed (and fundamentally racist) attitudes is provided by an editorial recently published by The Guardian. Written in elegiac tones, it refers to the recent events in Egypt, which resulted in the dismissal of Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime. Guardian empathises with Morsi, calling him the “democratically elected president”. Referring to Egypt’s presidential elections as “democratic” is at best a misuse of the term and at worst an attempt to deceive. Those elections may have been “free” – even calling them “fair” is very problematic, for a number of reasons. But “democratic”?? Need we remind the editors of The Guardian that democracy (a concept they purport to promote) involves more, much more than free elections? For instance, such “small details” as the rule of law, the separation of powers, a free press, an open public debate with no imposed taboos? All of which were conspicuously absent in Egypt at the time of Morsi’s election – and still are? Not to mention that, while shamelessly characterising Morsi as “democratically elected”, not even Guardian can bring itself to claim that he ruled democratically. In fact, as Egyptians know only too well, once elected Morsi did nothing to build democratic institutions (the mandate he was actually entrusted with); quite the opposite: he did his utmost to weaken any institution showing signs of independence – and ruled by decree, in the “best” tradition of dictators.
While The Guardian admits (rather euphemistically) that “Morsi failed to make good on [his] promises”, they still choose to deplore his removal. “[W]hich standard is more important than the one which decrees that transfers of power can only be enacted peacefully and through the ballot box?” asks The Guardian mournfully and rhetorically, decrying Morsi’s toppling. Indeed, peaceful transfer of power is what characterises a democracy. But under the Muslim Brotherhood regime Egypt was not a democracy – nor was it likely to become one. President Morsi was no democrat; he was a dictator-in-the-making who (as dictators do) used democratic jargon to cover very undemocratic actions. Dictators are not removed by “peacefully enacted transfers of power”; they are toppled by popular revolt supported by the military, just as Mubarak was. The Guardian’s lack of intellectual honesty is made even more blatant by their characterisation of the events as purely a “military coup”. Sure, the military were the ones that “closed the deal” – that’s what usually happens. That’s what happened in the end also when Mubarak was toppled. After all, ultimately someone needs to forcefully remove the dictator – and it can only be done by the military or with their support. But Guardian dishonestly ignores the millions of Egyptians who called for Morsi’s removal. The formal act of deposing Morsi might have ultimately been performed by the military; but to call it purely a “military coup” is to close one’s eyes and ears to the unequivocally expressed will of the Egyptian masses.
Where The Guardian finally loses any sense of ridicule is where it claims that “[t]he ousted Muslim Brotherhood […] are now fighting for constitutional democracy”. No, they are not. They are fighting to impose their supremacist view of the world, which should be anathema to anyone who calls him/herself progressive.
It is too early to predict where the latest events in Egypt will ultimately lead to. But, in the case of Morsi and his regime, the judgement expressed by the Egyptian people is the right one – and that should be a source of optimism. Perhaps the false “progressives” in the West ought to learn from the good instincts of Egyptians; those Western “progressives” might thus be reminded that while being elected bestows legitimacy, it does not bestow unconditional legitimacy. Being elected by the majority does not confer a mandate to rule by decree, but to rule within a fair framework of checks and balances. That is precisely what distinguishes democracy from a “tyranny of the majority”. The Nazi party came to power in Germany as a result of free elections. That did not make their hateful regime “legitimate”. Unlike Guardian’s confused editors, true progressives understand that legitimacy does not arise just from the way a leader is elected, but – crucially – from the way s/he rules.