Egypt’s New Roadmap

July 16, 2013

By Dan Tookey

Dr Omar Ahour (left), Jonathan Rugman (centre left), Mohamed Yehia (centre right), Dina Wahba (right); Photo: Dan Tookey

Dr Omar Ahour (left), Jonathan Rugman (centre left), Mohamed Yehia (centre right), Dina Wahba (right); Photo: Dan Tookey

Following Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power by the Egyptian military on the 3 July, the Frontline Club hosted a debate, ten days later, exploring what has happened and asking what these events mean for Egypt’s future.

Mona Al-Qazzaz, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesperson in the UK, began proceedings by describing recent events as a “tragedy for Egypt… And has run back to the day before 11 February 2011, every single democratic step… we were hoping for has just been abolished.”

The question of democracy and ‘legitimate process’ dominated much of the debate. Dr Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, argued that the 2012 election was based on a false choice:

“Many of the revolutionaries voted for him [Morsi] not because they like him, not because he was their first choice but they voted for him to stop Ahmed Shafik, who was Mubarak’s prime minister from taking over and basically returning us back to pre January 2011.”

The reason for Morsi’s ousting, according to Dina Wahba, an independent Egyptian activist taking part in the recent protests, was because he betrayed the Egyptian people:

“Morsi did not deliver on his promises… The constitution for example was about exclusion… It was about one faction wanting to exclude other factions and wanting to work alone, to become the hegemonic power in the state.”

Following Wahba’s remarks, Chairman Jonathan Rugman, a foreign affairs correspondent at Channel 4 News, asked Dr Maha Azzam:

“What do you say when millions of people turned out on the streets as they did, does that constitute democratic legitimacy, that trumps what happened at the ballot box in 2012?”

Dr Maha Azzam, an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House, replied by saying “that’s a very dangerous statement:”

 “We had a democratic process underway, the danger with going with numbers on the street, and they were huge numbers to say the least, is that they can go the other way as well. Ultimately we did have elections… A referendum, albeit with a small turnout, and so we had a process. We had an alternative, the alternative was to go to parliamentary elections.”

Dr Azzam argued that the reliance on the military will see them play a large part in Egypt “for the foreseeable future.”

Dr Ashour concurred saying the opposition forces could “have paralysed the Morsi administration via institution… What has happened now is that you have sacrificed the ballot box for the bullets.”

Taking a step back, Mohamed Yehia, the multi-media editor at BBC Arabic, compared the events in June 2013 and February 2011:

“In 2011 the street was united, this time there is a very huge split in the street; the second difference is the level of violence, we have seen the events at the Republican Guard building, an intensity of which we have never seen before. There seems to be a readiness to commit acts of violence from all sides that we have not seen before…”