Military ultimatum in Egypt
The New York Times said the following in an editorial
More than two years after Egyptians overthrew an authoritarian, military-backed leader and later installed their first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, the country is facing the possibility of more forcible change — from the military. It is a dangerous moment with no guarantee that another transition will be any more successful than the last.
On Monday, the military responded to a wave of increasingly violent anti-government protests by threatening to impose its own unspecified “road map” if the government and opposition forces did not resolve the political crisis in 48 hours. The military played a role in Egyptian politics for decades but withdrew 10 months ago under pressure from Morsi. Although many opposition groups applauded the military’s willingness to again intervene in politics now, that would be a major setback for Egyptian democracy. It would effectively give the military an opening to reinsert itself whenever there is a political crisis — and it is certain there will be more if Egypt wants to be on the road to real democracy. An adviser to Morsi said, “We understand it as a military coup.”
The ultimatum seemed to leave Morsi with few options: cut short his presidency and hold early elections; share power with a political opponent in the role of prime minister or — the worst outcome — fight for power in the streets. For the sake of all Egyptians, the government and the opposition need to finally work together.
The chaos, anger and violence that led the military to issue its ultimatum was testimony to the way all sides have failed to move Egypt to a better place after the dark days of Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011. The primary blame falls on Morsi and his backers in the Muslim Brotherhood. Persecuted and excluded from political life for decades, they refused to grasp what was required to lead the world’s largest Arab country. They used elections to monopolize power, denigrate adversaries and solidify ties with Islamist hard-liners.
They failed to make any real progress toward the economic and social goals for which Egyptians are desperate — security, jobs, education, a check on inflation. Like so many other embattled leaders in the region, Morsi sometimes blamed the ferment on some undefined sinister conspiracy instead of the yearning of all Egyptians, not just Islamists, to be part of the political process.
Opposition groups, meanwhile, have proved hugely successful at harnessing discontent and bringing people into the streets but not at articulating a coherent message, winning elections and projecting themselves as an effective alternative political force. There is no excuse for the violence on both sides, including the killing of seven people and the ransacking of offices of the Muslim Brotherhood. No one wins if Egypt remains an economic basket case at war with itself.