As the Economist noted, in its leading article of 5 July 2013, the removal of Egypt’s president Morsi “sends a dreadful message to Islamists everywhere”. Islamists will conclude that democracy doesn’t work, rather than drawing the correct conclusion: that no form of government will be acceptable unless it is inclusive. When the Muslim Brotherhood was a pressure group it only had to advance the interests of its own supporters, but a government has to run the country as a whole.
Elections are a necessary, but not sufficient, aspect of legitimacy. Stability depends upon acceptability, negotiability and inclusivity in all the dimensions of power:
The Egyptian people are suffering considerable (and unnecessary) poverty. There is widespread corruption and gross inequality and the economy is in trouble. It was unwise for the government to appear to ignore its economic responsibilities (3.3.9).
In a pluralist society such as Egypt it is important for everyone to show socially-acceptable behaviour towards everyone else (4.4.2), but it is a breach of people’s human rights to place additional religious demands on people (unless they have agreed to join a specific sect).
The separation of powers between the government, the legislature and the judiciary, is an essential safeguard against oppression (5.2.8).
Irrespective of the political system, politicians have to be seen as legitimate by the people they govern (6.3.5). This depends on much more than having been elected by a majority of the population; people are also entitled to expect responsiveness, competence and integrity.
The army has quelled the large-scale protests by giving the people what they were asking for: the removal of President Morsi. The Islamist supporters of the president are now protesting in their turn. There is a danger of events spiralling out of control, even sliding into civil war, unless the Islamists can see an acceptable political way forward. Suppressing them by force, using the army (7.2.6), would only buy time at the cost of considerable bloodshed before finding a political solution.
It is not surprising that mistakes were made in the first year of a new democracy. As the Economist article pointed out, a speedy political solution is now the best way forward. Hopefully a new government would learn from the mistakes of its predecessors and would take more active steps to foster peaceful pluralism (220.127.116.11).