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ElBaradei’s democracy: How Egypt’s revolution was betrayed

by Ramsey Baroud

“The revolution is dead. Long live the revolution,” wrote Eric Walberg, a Middle East political expert and author, shortly after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

But more accurately, the revolution was killed in an agonizingly slow death, and the murders were too many to count.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal elitist with a dismal track record in service of Western powers during his glamorous career as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a stark example of the moral and political crisis that has befallen Egypt since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. ElBaradei played a most detrimental role in this sad saga, from his uneventful return to Egypt during the January 2011 revolution — being cast as the sensible, Western-educated liberator — to the ousting of the only democratically elected president this popular Arab country has ever seen.

His double-speak was a testament not only to his opportunistic nature as a politician and the head of the Dostour Party, but to the entire political philosophy of the National Salvation Front, the opposition umbrella group for which he served as a coordinator.

The soft-spoken man, who rarely objected to the unfair pressure imposed on Iraq during his services as the head of the U.N. nuclear watch dog, was miraculously transformed into a fierce politician with persisting demands and expectations. His party, like the rest of Egypt’s opposition, had performed poorly in every democratic election and referendum held since the ouster of Mubarak.

Democracy proved him irrelevant. But after every failure he and the opposition managed to emerge even louder thanks to a huge media apparatus that operated around the clock in a collective, undying commitment in rearranging the country’s political scene in their favor, regardless of what the majority of Egyptians thought.

Soon after Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced a military coup on July 4, in what was a clearly well-organized conspiracy involving the army, much of the media, the opposition and disaffected Mubarak-era judges, silencing the Muslim Brotherhood and their own media were paramount. The level of organization in which the coup conspirators operated left no doubt that the military was most insincere when two days earlier they had given the quarreling political parties 48 hours to resolve their disputes or else.

Of course there was no room for compromise as far as ElBaradei’s opposition was concerned, and the army knew that well. On June 30, one year since Morsi had taken office following transparent, albeit protracted elections, the opposition organized with the sinister goal of removing the president at any cost.

Some called on the army, which has proven to be extremely devious and untrustworthy, to lead the “democratic” transition. ElBaradei even invited supporters of the former regime to join his crusade to oust the Brotherhood.

The idea was simple: to gather as many people in the streets as possible, claiming a second revolution and calling on the military to intervene to save Egypt from Morsi and his supposed disregard of the will of the people.

The military, with a repulsive show of orchestrated benevolence, came to the rescue, in the name of the people and democracy. They arrested the president, shut down Islamic TV stations, killed many and rounded up hundreds of people affiliated with the ruling party. Fireworks ensued, ElBaradei and his men gloated, for Egypt had supposedly been saved.

Except it was not.

“Mubarak-era media owners and key members of Egypt’s liberal and secular opposition have teamed up to create arguably one of the most effective propaganda campaigns in recent political history, to demonize Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood,” wrote Mohamad Elmasry of the American University in Cairo.

Much of the media in Egypt never truly shifted allegiances. It remained as dirty and corrupt as it was during the Mubarak regime. It was there to serve the interest of the powerful business and political elites.

But due to the changing political reality — three democratic elections and two referendums, all won by Islamic party supporters — it was impossible for them to operate using the same language. They too jumped on the revolution bandwagon using the same frame of references as if they were at the forefront of the fight for freedom, equality and democracy.

Egypt’s reactionary forces, not only in the media, but also the pro-Mubarak judges, the self-serving military, etc, managed to survive the political upheaval not for being particularly clever.

They simply had too much room to regroup and maneuver since the desperate opposition, ElBaradie and company, put all of their focus on discounting Morsi, undermining the Muslim Brotherhood, and undercutting the democratic process that brought them to power. In their desperation and search for power, they lost sight of the revolution and its original goals, disowned democracy, but more importantly endangered the future of Egypt itself.

What took place in Egypt, starting with the orchestrated ‘revolution’ on June 30, from the army’s ultimatum, to the military coup, to the shameless reinvention of the old order — accompanied with repopulating the prisons and sending tanks to face unarmed civilians — was not only disheartening to the majority of Egyptians, but was a huge shock to many people around the world as well. Egypt, which once inspired the world, is now back to square one.

Since the onset of the so-called Arab Spring, an intense debate of numerous dimensions has ensued. One of its aspects was concerned with the role of religion in a healthy democracy.

Egypt, of course, was in the heart of that debate, and every time Egyptians went to the ballot box they seemed to concur with the fact that they wished to see some sort of marriage between Islam and democracy. It was hardly an easy question, and until now there have been no convincing answers. But, as in any healthy democracy, it was the people who were to have the final say. The fact that the choice of a poor peasant from a distant Egyptian village didn’t match ElBaradei’s elitist sensibility is of no consequence whatsoever.

It is unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that many of the idealists who took to Tahrir Square in January 2011 and spoke of equal rights for all couldn’t bear the outcome of that equality. Some complained that decades of marginalization under Mubarak didn’t qualify Egypt’s poor, uneducated and illiterate to make decisions on political representation and democratic constitution.

And in a sad turn of events, these very forces were openly involved in toppling the democratically elected president and his party, as they happily celebrated the return to oppression as a glorious day of freedom. ElBaradie may now return to center stage, lecturing Egypt’s poor on what true democracy is all about — and why, in some way, the majority doesn’t matter at all.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

  • KimNguyen

    Ramsy, one thing missing in this analysis is the timing of the overthrow: The demonstrations were called for as soon as Morsi signed on to use Egyptian forces to bolster the opposition to the Syrian government, at the behest of SA and the US! That was about Je 24th. The Egyptian army immediately issued a statement saying they (the generals) did not agree. Then demonstrations were orchestrated. I do not think that this enormous issue of wasting Egyptian resources and lives to please the big guys was a minor affect. As for who to take over after a oup? That does remain to be seen, but I really can’t see Egyptians falling behind an ElBaradie either..

  • myopinion

    Actually this article holds many valuable insights if not facts, the media propaganda against Morsi and brotherhood, and union between the so called opposition and Mubarak regime, the role of military who’s been running egype for 60 years and couldn’t care less of the life conditions of egyptians, etc etc ….
    Indeed this is an orchestrated revolution or better say crowds. The fact that there were egyptians who was upset with Morsi’s mistakes and who did not follow any political group, doesn’t deny that these were the minority of the crowds that hit the street on the 30th of June, and that there is no way to count them (aside from the fake videos provided by the army) and that it has basically thrown the votes and voices of millions of Egyptians in garbage, whether those who voted in the last elections or those who were not asked when the military executed the coup.

    • Karim Ragab

      You need one hell of a maestro to orchestrate the largest demonstrations in history!

      • Duncan_McFarlane

        Well since the Tamarod movement was mainly funded by businessmen who supported Mubarak according to reports in the New York Times – and since the protesters included lots of former members of Mubarak’s NDP party, including people who had been NDP MPs under Mubarak, not so hard. NYT also reports that the petrol and electricity “crises” miraculously disappeared as soon as Morsi was overthrown, so they were likely engineered by the same businessmen and by the military (which owns and runs much of Egypt’s economy and wants to keep it that way)

  • Ahmed Refaat

    30/6 is a real revolution. Egyptians can not wait any more

  • ali hussein

    u tell the truth ramsey as u really live among us here in Egypt. CC will be tried in ICC

  • hamada

    this article is great ,,I am Egyptian and I agree with the author

  • Karim Ragab

    Your article makes sense if (1) you have a short memory, (2) you’re not very familiar with Egypt or (3) if you want to simply push a certain view. Otherwise it just doesn’t.

    Talking about legitimacy in the case of Morsi is like talking about sportsmanship in the case of Lance Armstrong. What doping was for the latter, subversion of democracy is for the former.

    Imagine that in Japan a Prime Minister puts himself above the law by a dictatorial decree? Please also imagine that he rams a constitution through at 3am in the morning with his followers and then gets 13% of the population to vote for it. How about his followers besieging the countries TV production area and the supreme court?

    Please check this link to understand who this supposed democrat is:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/morsi-says-jihad-is-our-path-and-death-in-the-name-of-allah-is-our-goal-2012-6

    • Duncan_McFarlane

      Morsi was democratically elected and under him in an entire year a couple of dozen protesters from each side killed one another. The current government is an unelected military coup regime full of Generals and people originally appointed by and loyal to Mubarak. It’s killed hundreds of protesters in less than a month.

      The Interim President Adly Mansour was first made a judge by Mubarak and lifted the ban on members of his dictatorship standing in elections after Mubarak’s overthrow. He’s re-appointed the Chief Prosecutor who Morsi sacked by his November Decree for finding every single Mubarak security official not guilty of ordering protesters killed. Morsi’s decree also ordered their re-trial – but the coup regime will let them all off as it massacres hundreds more.

      Secret police units disbanded after the revolution are back under Mansour and the real President – General Sissi (who’s made himself CinC of the military (a position held by elected officials in every democracy but here held by the effective military dictator), Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister all in one.

      Morsi’s decree was a response to these actions of the Chief Prosecutor in letting all Mubarak’s people off free and Mubarak’s judiciary’s attempt to dissolve the elected parliament and block any change to the dictatorship’s 1971 constitution.

      It would probably have been more democratic to postpone any new constitution till one everyone could accept could be agreed to, but basically Baradei and much of the opposition were refusing any compromise or negotiation with the elected government and over and over again refused talks until all their demands were met, including the resignation of the elected President. What could Morsi do about that?

      Every voter was able to vote for or against the constitution in the referendum – and 67%
      voted for it on a 32% turnout, which comes to 21% of the population, not
      13%. The reason there was a low turnout was that the opposition chose
      to boycott the referendum – half of them because they claimed it was too
      Islamist, the other half because they claimed it wasn’t Islamist enough
      (Salafist parties).

      • Karim Ragab

        That’s the problem Duncan. Constitutions need to get close to unanimous approval. Ours unfortunately was rammed through.

        Interesting that you think that being elected entitles you to kill people

        May I ask where you’re from?

      • Duncan_McFarlane

        Where did i say being elected entitles you to kill people? I never said that. As many Muslim Brotherhood pro-Morsi demonstrators were killed as anti-Morsi demonstrators when he was in power though – and mostly it was protesters from one side killing protesters from the other.

        I’m from Scotland.

      • Karim Ragab

        Duncan. You need to come to Egypt and talk to Egyptians. You’ll see for yourself what people think. Plus, prices are good :)

  • sofia hasballah

    I agree with this article. I stay in egypt and from what i can see the media and the opposition has collaborate from the beginning to have the power from dr morsy. And please admit, if you calculate everything thoroughly, dr morsy has become the president only for one year and what do you expect egypt going to be with billions of loan from here and there. Egyptian are so impatient and the expect he can flourish with money and wealthy within a year. People keep blaming him because the media has play a very good role decorating a negative mindset towards your own president and here you’re, tamarroud aka the puppet of elitist aka the betrayer od 25th jan. Poor the martyr’ soul that sacrifice their blood and life just to be wasted, for nothing.
    Egyptian got angry and accuse dr morsy slandering the citizen’s money, have you ever count how many billions mubarak and his man name ahmad syafiq, ‘el baradei’ and so on so on have slandered the money from egyptian after 30 years? Dont forget to count ok.

  • Amir Fendi

    ok ok ok, Then can you please answer this article as a person who speaks of a real journalism?

  • yassine

    That is total bullshit Leyla. Ramzy Baroud is a well respected journalist and not a propagandist. Open your eyes and see the truth.

  • Duncan_McFarlane

    It says a lot that you just insult the article without mentioning any of the uncomfortable facts brought up by it.

  • Ahmed Atef

    In Addition to “Sofia” the new post-coup ministers of (inetrior affairs, petrol, and Electricity) are the same who are responsible for the petrol, electricity and national safety during Morsy’s time … is it an appraisal for the good work “to oust Morsy”?

  • mostafa jamal

    i totally agree with sofia and ahmad… and simply, if it is not a coup why every politician visit egypt have to sit with the GENERALS OF THE ARMY (SISI) and why the army kill and arrest the protesters (hundreds of thousands each day in rabaa and nahda squares and millions across egypt !! and why shut down tv channels and close news papers and arrest journalists …why all that if they CLAIM they did it because the whole people want it !! if this is not a coup what is the coup then !!!

  • Karim Ragab

    You need to mention that there are 30 ministries. Only 2 or 3 stayed the same.