As the world continues to closely follow the current Egyptian crisis unfold, no statement has been batted around more than ‘the will of the Egyptian people’; both beggar and President alike have uttered these hollow words.
Few would take issue with the conviction that the will and aspirations of any nation are of paramount importance. Confusion arises, however, from the commonly held understanding that the Egyptian people agreed in 2011 that they would no longer tolerate a leadership which was not democratic, that arbitrarily arrested the innocent and that snatched food away from the mouths of the poor to feed the pockets of the rich.
Despite this, how is it that Egypt now finds itself in a situation where the ”apparent” will of the Egyptian people – only a year into the democratic process – has paved the way for unfavourable democracy to be subject to a military coup, that the innocent are detained and even murdered on the basis of their political persuasion, that freedom of speech is to be curtailed, and that money should be solicited from countries which clearly have little regard for the interests of the Egyptian people?
It all seems rather odd.
Mohamed Morsi is accused by his opponents as having mismanaged the countries affairs by failing in his attempts to bring about economic growth and political stability. For the person on the street, however, the failing signs of Mr Morsi’s short premiership were rather more straight forward; fuel shortages led to enormous queues at petrol stations across Egypt, wheat supplies were becoming increasingly scarce, homes had to deal with regular power outages and the cost of food increased significantly.
Any doubt as to the perceived incompetence of the former President was quickly removed after he was deposed. The Egyptian people awoke the morning after with an improved power supply, the assurance of greater wheat supplies, petrol stations across the country stocking up quickly and interest free aid packages from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait. While the problems remain far from resolved, they did improve with suspicious haste. One is then left wondering as to why Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were not able to achieve the same, if it was really that simple a task?
Reporting for the The New York Times last Thursday, Ben Hubbard and David Kirkpatrick suggested a few answers to this dilemma. They brought to light evidence suggesting that wealthy and influential figures within Egypt came together to shape and squeeze the Egyptian people in the run up to the June 30th protests. The article outlined a series of measures adopted to further pave the way for Mr Morsi’s exit.
Mike Giglio, writing for the Daily Beast on Friday, reported that a number of those driving the protests had for some time been in regular contact with retired Army officers who acted as intermediaries between the protesters and the Army. Giglio writes that, ‘…it was clear their movement had the Army’s support’.
The covert domestic movements which have contributed towards the current situation have certainly been compounded by the emerging question as to whether or not the USA influenced the current situation? Despite the firm assurances of President Obama that the USA remains non-partisan, Emad Mekay’s exclusive report for Al Jazeera last Wednesday appears to evidence the opposite. Mekay argues that despite US assurances, ‘…a review of dozens of US federal government documents shows that Washington has quietly funded senior Egyptian opposition figures who called for a toppling of the country’s now-deposed president Mohamed Morsi’. Despite Mekay’s piece receiving heavy criticism, many of the questions it raised remain unanswered.
And so, in the midst of continuing domestic and foreign meddling, exasperated by the battle for regional power between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Turkey, one cannot help but feel that the will of the Egyptian people has simply become a vehicle to help drive a diverse set of interests. The only problem, though, is that none of these interests appear to be in line with the current will of the people and certainly not the spirit of the Arab Spring.
For sure, some reports coming out of Egypt are loaded with speculation and conspiracy, but there certainly are many that should be a cause of considerable concern to us all. Most worrying of all for Egypt, is that the current changes are no guarantee that any short to medium term improvements will be anything more than superficial, and that the country could slip back into a modified version of what existed before the 2011 revolution.
The real pity is that the existing and emerging problems of Egypt were all too predictable, and should have been tackled by Mr. Morsi from the outset of his presidency. No doubt some of the required actions would have been met with resistance, particularly by the remnants of the old guard, coupled with states which do not want the Islamic experiment to succeed, but at least if he had failed, history and the Egyptian people would ultimately have remembered an Islamist president who tried. It now seems unlikely for an Islamic party to gain any political traction in Egypt for quite a long time.
The great Egyptian people seem to have got what they wanted, but the question still remains as to whether or not they will want what they have got.