x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Egyptians can still establish democratic rule

Mohammed Morsi is gone, now Egypt's political parties must regroup and create clear manifestos to give voters a proper choice at the next elections.

Just like that, Egypt's first democratically elected president was ousted by the army on Wednesday, three days after the first anniversary of his rise to power. The military intervention, supported by millions of vocal Egyptians, is soaked in irony: the same people who took to the streets more than a year ago demanding the transition to a civilian state, called on the military to depose Mohammed Morsi. After 85 years of struggle to gain power, the Muslim Brotherhood's brief period in office was over, at least for now.

Mr Morsi's removal sets a troubling precedent for both the army and the people. The former may continue to exercise its powers at will as a key stakeholder in Egypt's future, and the latter might feel they can call on the military to remove any future leader who proves unpopular.

To be sure, the military intervention has been backed by leaders in Egyptian civil society who have a long record of opposing autocracy and who still stand against military rule. Without the support of these leaders and the millions on the streets, the transition would not have been as peaceful. In that sense, Egypt still has a chance of establishing a nascent democracy if the military-backed opposition manages to implement the "road map" announced after the president's authority was revoked.

It is, of course, important for all parties in Egypt to recognise their nation has reached this point largely due to a mismanaged transition, led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

The consequences of that botched handover arrived with a hefty price for the country and its people. Indeed, Egyptian society has never been more polarised than it is today.

Now must also be the time for Egyptians to work together towards resetting the democratic process in a calm fashion and openly discussing what shape the future will take.

In that sense, the greatest challenge will be persuading the people to give their new leaders enough time and for the military to provide an honest assessment of when the current transitional period will end.

Mr Morsi also has to shoulder plenty of blame for the state Egypt finds itself in. He failed to demonstrate that he was the president of all Egyptians. He did not make good on his promises, including the appointment of minorities and women as aides. He failed to make sound economic judgements. The country's financial future remains in a parlous state as do the employment prospects of the nation's youth. The country's budget deficit has risen steeply since 2011. Mr Morsi also antagonised Egypt's allies in the Arabian Gulf by moving closer to establishing a "special relationship" with Iran. He fell short in almost every department: socially, politically, economically and in terms of foreign policy.

The events of this week mark a precipitous moment for Egypt - one that demands both caution and reflection.

It also requires the necessary space for political parties of all persuasions to gather up and begin organising themselves into truly representative grassroots organisations.

These parties need to discuss and develop meaningful manifestos to ensure the next set of elections offer the Egyptian people a more comprehensive set of choices and a clear set of policies with which to enact change and solve the country's manifold problems.

If Mr Morsi was removed from office for his failures and, in large part, for his distinct lack of vision and his muddled policy platform, history must not be allowed to repeat itself in the moments after his unseating.