It is wrong to assume that the basis for the current legitimacy in Egypt is derived from the roadmap announced on July 3. The roadmap is nothing but a course of action, made possible through an alternative legitimacy reborn on June 30 from the masses who not only overturned the Muslim Brotherhood rule, but aimed at rectifying Egypt’s transition following the Brothers’ attempts to monopolize national institutions and dominate the decision-making process.
There was a need to establish an alternative legitimacy to supplant the authority of the Brotherhood, which was acquired through the ballot boxes. The Brothers’ political legitimacy took a hard blow following the exceptional measures they took, such as the constitutional declaration that gave Former President Mohamed Morsi expandable powers, jeopardizing the independence of the judiciary, as well as threatening the media and intellectuals. This is in addition to monopolizing the constitution drafting process. .
The alternative legitimacy brought about by the mass protests on June 30 was premised on 1) respecting minorities’ rights, particularly vis-à-vis freedom of expression and political participation, 2) keeping state institutions away from the domination of a particular political faction, 3) insisting on a civil state.
The course of events since July 26 exhibit how the June 30 revolt has gradually turned into a “coup”, not primarily against the Brotherhood rule, but against the above-mentioned premises. July 26 marks the day of the nationwide rally called for by military commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to authorize the interim government to fight the Brothers’ “terrorism”. What happened since that day went against the premises of this aspired alternative legitimacy that goes beyond the removal of the Brotherhood rule, to instate — or claim to establish — the basis for a new political rule.
For the past year, democratic groups in Egypt have complained about being deliberately excluded from the decision-making process and the drafting of the 2012 Constitution. Their call for protest on June 30 was accordingly a rejection of political exclusion and an occasion to demand the establishment of political diversity as the cornerstone of any political system.
Where is this political diversity today? Where are the procedures for establishing this political diversity or at least the admission that it is a political, legal and constitutional right?
Additionally, various political factors took to the streets in June to protest the “Brotherhoodization” of state institutions, be it the bureaucracy or the security apparatus. Political parties and groups agreed on the necessity of keeping state institutions outside the sway of any ruling group, even if it was elected to office.
The Brothers have in fact appointed their loyal supporters to head critical institutions of the state, such as the judiciary, the education, finance and culture ministries, which constitute a threat to the impartiality of public institutions.
Where are we today from this demand to maintain the independence of public institutions? And when did we decide to let go of this demand? A quick look at the political and constitutional debates today vis-à-vis the privileges of the military and the security apparatus is enough to evidently show how this government is committing the mistakes of its predecessors, and even carrying out graver errors.
The masses of June 30 have also rallied around the concept of a civil state. Despite the versatile nature of this concept, oscillating between the “non-religious” and “non-military” state, the crowds seem to have embraced both meanings as bases for a new political order. This is evident in how Morsi’s ouster was not proclaimed from a military podium, but from a civilian platform that was essential in providing legitimacy for ending the Brotherhood rule. This civilian legitimacy was established through the coming together of the leaders of Al-Azhar and the Coptic Orthodox Church with political reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei and other leaders of the National Salvation Front and Tamarod, in addition to the military, to not only reclaim the state from the Brotherhood’s grip, but to redeem the civil state.
And again, one wonders when this demand for a civil state was forgone, and why is it gradually being replaced by another notion; that of the central, rather than civil, state?
Finally, there are many indicators that shatter the societal agreement and demands of June 30. These include the recent drafting of the constitution in the dark, away from the media, the rush to pass legislation restricting the right to protest, and the terrorism act, in addition to advocating the right of military personnel to compete in presidential elections as well as the security crackdown on the opposition. All this goes against the principles of political diversity, the civil nature of the state, and the independence of public institutions.
We are in fact living through a soft “coup”, not only against the Brotherhood, but also against the political principles that made Morsi’s ouster acceptable and legitimate. It is also a “coup” against the premises that made June 30 a setting for a popular alternative legitimacy that would safeguard us against violation and domination of power.