Egypt shows what democracy is about

Egypt shows what democracy is about

News organizations called it perhaps the biggest political crowd of mankind when millions of Egyptians took to the streets across the country on the night of June 30.

It was the first anniversary of President Mohamed Morsi’s taking of power through the first-ever free elections in the country’s thousand years of history following the spectacular “Tahrir” revolution in 2011 that ended the 30-year authoritarian regime of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Tahrir Square of Cairo was packed full of protestors who were not patient enough despite the fact that Morsi has been in power for only a year now. But they were not the only ones. In another part of Cairo, closer to Morsi’s Presidential Palace, there was another demonstration to support him, saying this democratically elected leader deserved more time to put things in order.

But why on earth after only a year in power (gained by a clear 51.7 percent) are so many people (22 million signatures) asking him to leave the job? Why, when the approval rating was as high as 78 percent at the end of his 100th day in power, is it as low as 32 percent, according to polls nowadays?

There are of course economic reasons for that, but a year is nothing to put the Egyptian economy, which has relied on government subsidies on almost everything from bread to electricity for the last few decades, in order.

The share of political reasons to find answers to those questions is seemingly higher. Morsi’s tendencies to concentrate all power in the presidency with fewer checks and balances over it and impatience to fill almost all government positions with members of Ikhwan-i Muslimin, the Muslim Brotherhood (which was the main reason for the incident in Luxor last month), some of whom even have criminal records, possibly scared many Egyptians that their long-awaited revolution and freedom were about to be hijacked by someone who had also suffered under the former authoritarian rule.

Perhaps knowing that, Morsi, during a public speech two days before of the second Tahrir uprising, focused on the political side of it, claiming that it was the remnants of the “deeper state” and “foreign powers” who were trying to provoke Egyptians by using “street thugs.” The terminology, which is not alien to Turkish ears (since Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan also accused “foreign powers,” the “international interest rate lobby” and remnants of “dark forces” who were manipulating the “marauders”) did not work for Egyptians, evident enough from the June 30 picture of a divided country.

Unfortunately, there were some fringe elements among the demonstrators who attacked the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Muqattam with petrol bombs and then ransacked the building, (like those destroying things around the Taksim protests), which put a trump card in the hands of the Egyptian government to try to hide the peaceful protests of millions. However, it did not quite work as well, since on the morning of July 1, four of Morsi’s ministers resigned from the government. Unfortunately, havoc once again enabled the military to intervene in politics.

The Egypt case shows us once again that for a working democracy, free elections are not enough; you cannot abuse a ballot box victory as leverage to concentrate all power in your hands and ignore the state of law and basic freedoms. It is better for Morsi if he acknowledges this reality sooner rather than later.