Egypt remains in chaos one month after a military coup deposed President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. The military leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi claimed the right to overthrow Morsi a year after Morsi was elected, because the President had failed to deliver on promises of expanded representation for the Egyptian citizens. In November 2012, Morsi claimed the right to make laws and judicial decrees without any review or oversight. Morsi later annulled this privilege in response to mass protests, but the protests returned in June 2013 in response to fuel and electricity shortages. On July 3rd, the military overthrew Morsi and installed leader Adly Mansour.
It is beyond audacious to claim the right to overthrow the leader of a country by force, but perhaps the Egyptian military could claim that authority on the strength of its superior values and actions to that of Morsi. Or at least they could have made that case a month ago. In the weeks since then, the Egyptian military has lost its moral authority. Here are three of the biggest events that made that happen:
July 3rd, Military Coup
Mohammed Morsi was, by all accounts, a bad president, but he was also democratically elected—the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history. By deposing him a year into his term, the military dealt a serious blow to the integrity of Egypt’s democracy. If the military claims the right to overthrow any President against whom there are mass protests, that is essentially the equivalent of saying that the military can kick out the President whenever it likes. The 48 hour window offered by the military was little more than an announcement that they were on their way. In addition to physically taking over the capital, the military launched coordinated strikes of pro-Morsi media stations. Not a good way to start for alleged champions of democracy.
July 8th, July 27-28th, Violent crackdown against pro-Morsi protests
Claiming that protesting Morsi supporters were a “conspiratorial gang” with no respect for the rule of law, the military struck back against the protestors on July 8th, and again last weekend, resulting in 130 deaths. The military used anti-Morsi protests as justification to overthrow Egypt’s president. Responding violently to the same sorts of protests upends any moral authority that the military drew from these protests.
July 31st, Police ordered to end pro-Morsi sit-ins, three Muslim Brotherhood leaders detained for “inciting violence”
The Egyptian military and its installed leaders blame Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood for the violence in the protests and have responded to this by ordering that pro-Morsi sit-ins be dispersed by the police (which will undoubtedly result in more violence, more lives lost) and have detained three Muslim Brotherhood leaders for inciting said violence. The latter action is a new category of moral degradation, because it brings in the courts as another avenue with which to abuse power.
Egypt’s military has lost its moral authority. It can’t earn it back any time soon, but what it can do is to follow through on the promise to hold elections, and hand over power as soon as possible.