It is the Electoral Fallacy, Stupid!

It is the Electoral Fallacy, Stupid!

Since mass protests spread across Egypt along with an ultimatum given by the military leadership paving the way for the removal of the country’s first freely elected president on July 3, the Turkish government has been following an extremely rare, if not unique line of foreign policy. Due to shared strategic interests and ideological affinity between Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s AKP government has adopted a fierce anti-coup rhetoric and engaged in a futile diplomatic campaign to reverse the coup in Egypt.

On July 5, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdoğan, compared the current situation in Egypt to events in Istanbul’s Gezi Park a month earlier: “The minority imposing their will on the majority.” It is the central contention of this article that ruling parties’ fallacious idea of merely holding elections is enough to make a country a democracy constitutes the core of the protestors’ grievances in recent uprisings in Taksim and Tahrir Squares between May and July 2013. As Larry Diamond from Stanford University explains “electoral fallacy” consists of “privileging electoral contestation over other dimensions of democracy and ignoring the degree to which multiparty elections, even if genuinely competitive, may effectively deny significant sections of the population the opportunity to contest for power or advance and defend their interests, or may leave significant arenas of decision-making power beyond the reach or control of elected officials”.

In a bitter irony, AKP leaders and their supporters in the Turkish media, who have cast Morsi’s toppling as an assault on democracy, make little mention of the fact that mammoth street protests against Morsi’s autocratic rule had been building for months. The Morsi government has definitely suffered from a deteriorating economy, higher unemployment, increasing prices, and a weakening tourist industry. But like their Turkish counterparts in Taksim Square, the protesters gathering in Tahrir were also concerned with their national leaders’ authoritarian tendencies and stood united against their instrumentalization of democracy. Interpreting his 51.7 percent share of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections of June 30, 2012, as a sufficient source of legitimacy, Mohammed Morsi failed to follow a participatory and inclusive policy during his one year in power. Morsi’s homogenous Cabinet drew its members solely from religiously oriented political parties, and the president granted himself unlimited powers to “protect” the nation and the authority to legislate without judicial review. Although he later had to retract the most extensive legislation under pressure from strong opposition, Morsi had already succeeded in using the original degree to push an Islamist-supported draft constitution through a referendum. On December 22, 2012, the Constitution supported by Morsi was approved by 64 percent of voters in a national referendum in which only 33 percent of the electorate participated. The secular, moderate, liberal, nationalist, Christian and leftist political segments that had played an important role in the Egyptian revolution of 2011 increasingly found themselves marginalized and alienated from the government.

Morsi’s lacking appreciation for pluralism and deliberation also marks his organizational governing style. As Stephan Roll from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs writes, “party positions were mostly discussed within the Brotherhood’s leadership bureau, Maktab al-Irshad. In this non-transparent executive board, a small group of ideologically like-minded ‘conservative pragmatists’ who were part of the inner circle of Kheirat al-Shater, the deputy leader of the Brotherhood, kept things firmly in their hands.” During the past several months, there have been repeated reports of an “Ikhwanization,” an infiltration of institutions by the Muslim Brotherhood, and of cultural Islamicization in Egypt, which has led to multiple demonstrations against the minister of culture by individuals and such oppositional organizations as the Revolution Artist Coalition.

What happened on July 3 was, therefore, not “the minority imposing their will on the majority” but a popular revolution hijacked by the military very similar to the case 2,5 years ago, which quite ironically was strongly supported by the AKP leadership then.

*Tuba Eldem, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto