The Obama administration apparently isn’t ready to recognize it, and an Egyptian military official is describing what happened there this week as “impeachment by the military,” but the military’s ouster of Mohammed Morsi, is an old-fashioned military coup.
It’s too soon to tell whether the military, which also sought power when Hosni Mubarak was forced out by an angry populace two years ago, will be able to hold power. But it’s probably safe to say that many of those who welcomed the military’s involvement in forcing out Mr. Morsi — who was democratically elected –— won’t relish military rule. The military, after all, knows force, not governing, and certainly not democracy of the sort that many in Egypt continue to seek. Although the military said it would allow peaceful demonstrations, it’s already arrested many of Mr. Morsi’s key supporters to consolidate its authority.
We doubt whether Mr. Morsi will be able to regain power, and don’t know whether that would be good for Egypt. Ousting the elected president after just a year in office hardly fosters democracy, but the fact is, Mr. Morsi didn’t do much of what he said he would do. Public frustration and disillusionment were understandable.
Mr. Morsi said he would work to rebuild the economy, starting with the restoration of tourism — Egypt’s largest industry — by ensuring tourists’ safety. He also said he would reduce youth joblessness by initiating public works programs; ease obstacles to foreign investment, and crack down on corruption. Those proved to be empty promises.
During the campaign, he tried to separate himself from the Muslim Brotherhood, but once elected, he named Brotherhood members and even radical Islamists to government posts. His speeches became increasingly religious as he strove to establish “political Islam.” Even worse, his Islamist supporters rewrote Egypt’s constitution, which became the law of the land despite just 32-percent voter turnout.
The government is now led on an interim basis by Adly Mansour, the chief justice of Egypt’s Supreme Court. If he doesn’t have the full support of a skeptical citizenry, he has the support of Saudi Arabia, whose king wasted no time in congratulating Mr. Mansour on his “leadership of Egypt in this critical period of its history.”
If he has his country’s best interests at heart, he’ll recognize that Egypt’s experiment with democracy needn’t end with Mr. Morsi’s ouster. To that end, Mr. Mansour ought to ensure stability as peacefully as possible and then consider scheduling new elections. Above all, he ought to resist the temptation to establish long-term military rule.