Military can't stop democracy in Egypt

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am


The unwillingness of Egypt's generals to accept the results of the country's first democratic presidential election has sent shockwaves through not just the nation, but across the Middle East. Activists agitating for the overthrow of authoritarian leaders saw the successful revolution against Hosni Mubarak 18 months ago as a beacon of hope and inspiration, the essence of the Arab spring. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' dissolving of parliament, scrapping of the constitution and taking control under a figurehead president has many despairing that all was in vain. While political gains have been lost, it would be wrong to call the uprising a failure, though. It is merely the end of the first chapter.

Weekend elections were never likely to choose a popular president. Moderate candidates representing the aspirations of demonstrators were eliminated in the first round, splitting the vote and leaving a choice between Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Mursi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Mursi was leading in exit polls when the generals declared that Shafiq would be president until they drew up a new constitution. With Egypt having no constitution or parliament and a divisive new leader without substantial powers, the hand-wringing is understandable.

The possibility of a democratically-elected government has for now been snatched away, but that does not mean the experiment has come to an end. Most Egyptians still want a civil state that is non-military, non-religious and void of the endemic corruption brought about by six decades of army rule. It can take place without the bloodshed and violence that led to Mubarak's resignation thanks to the gains made.

Egypt now has a free media and freedom of expression and speech. Its problems and challenges are well understood. Citizens in all walks of life are politically aware and active. The push for democracy no longer needs loss of life and risk. Instead, it needs better organisation and a strategy for which the military will have no answer.