By ROSIE WATERLAND
1. So… What exactly happened last night?
The President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown by the Egyptian military overnight. This followed a week of protests by the Egyptian people, centered around Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where thousands have been camped out. When news broke yesterday evening that President Morsi had finally been overthrown, the crowd erupted in cheers and celebration. Those are the pictures you are seeing all over the news today. However the joyous celebrations being televised mask what has been a pretty violent week in Egypt, with almost 50 people killed and 91 women reportedly raped and sexually abused in Tahrir Square.
2. Why did they chuck Morsi out?
The army says that Morsi “failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people.”
But what does that mean exactly?
There has been tension surrounding President Morsi’s leadership since he was elected last year. Morsi represents the Muslim Brotherhood, a political organisation that represent Egypt’s large Islamic population. However, there is also a large section of the Egyptian population who are liberal secularists, and they believe that President Morsi was putting his religious agenda above much needed social reform of the country.
The clashes you’ve been watching on the news are between pro-Morsi and anti-Morsi people. And while those who remain pro-Morsi are generally from the Muslim Brotherhood, there are many Muslims who form part of the anti-Morsi camp. They just want to see the policies they voted for implemented, regardless of religion.
After all, Morsi had campaigned for the presidency on a platform of sweeping social reform that would allow for democracy and freedom of speech. Many Egyptians feel that the Muslim Brotherhood’s zealous focus on religious reform is prohibiting any chance of real democratic change.
Some Egyptians were also unhappy that Morsi had enacted legislation that meant he is no longer answerable to Egypt’s judicial system; essentially placing him above the law. Given that the Egyptian people only recently ousted a leader who pretty much did whatever he wanted for 30 years, hearing that their new President had put himself beyond the reach of the courts, understandably made the people pretty nervous.
3. Who’s in charge now?
For a while it looked like President Morsi thought he still was. He released a Youtube video that basically had a ‘KEEP CALM I’M IN CHARGE’ vibe to it. The army, who helped the people to overthrow Morsi, have decided to place the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court temporarily in charge. His name is Adly al-Mansour.
Word at the moment is that ‘consultations have started’ to find a new president. Until that time, any drafting of new laws has been frozen, so that no one can be all like “I’m in charge and I’m changing the rules so that there can’t be an election for 50 years, bitchez.” Smart move.
The Egyptian military aren’t exactly known for their exemplary human rights record either, so finding a new democratic elected leader ASAP is in everyone’s best interests.
4. Didn’t the Egyptian people protest to get rid of someone else not that long ago?
Yes. During the Arab Spring in 2011, President Mohamed Hosni Mubarek was forced to resign by the people.
Here’s an extract from a piece Rick Morton wrote for Mamamia at the time:
President Mohamed Hosni Mubarek has been in charge and ruling autocratically since 1981. A child born at the beginning of his rule would have completed university and be preparing a family and a 30th birthday party filled with tears and monologues about a third-life-crisis. Australians tend to get tired of Governments after 11 years. And we get the special privilege of electing them.
But you’ll note Mubarek has also broken a lot of promises in his time, principally for democratic reform of the country. He’s been promising free and fair elections (ones where he doesn’t tweak the rules to eliminate his most popular opponents) for years now and people are fed up.
You know those domineering ladies with 10 kids who have treated the parents association at the local school as their own personal fiefdom for decades? Yup, it’s kind of like that and now there’s been a throwdown.
5. Two presidents have been overthrown in two years. That seems a bit rash. Why?
Well, President Mubarek basically had a stronghold on the leadership for 30 years. He was an autocratic leader who rigged elections (when he bothered to hold them) and never let the Egyptian people elect someone they wanted. The people forced him out because they wanted the chance to democratically elect a leader.
The person they chose was President Morsi, who took office as Egypt’s very first democratically elected president in June 2012. It was a happy day for Egypt but unfortunately in time, it became clear Morsi wasn’t running the democratic government he had promised to the people who elected him.
Exhibit A: Morsi said in an interview with The Guardian just last week that the protests were legitimate and “There can be demonstrations and people expressing their opinions.” A few days later the people said “thanks, but no thanks” and overthrew him. He released a Youtube video saying “I am still President.” Not exactly the picture of democracy.
The Egyptian people want the right to democratically elect the person they choose but they also want that person to follow through on their promise to rule democratically. Their last two leaders kind of stiffed them on both points. Hence the overthrows.
6. But we’re tucked away down under, how does this effect little ol’ me?
Does it directly affect you? Perhaps not. But here in Australia, where we enjoy the fruits of a stable and democratic system of government, we should always support people who are fighting peacefully for their right to live in a fair and free democracy.
And the majority of the Egyptian people WANT a fair democracy – regardless of their religion or who they voted for the last time around. Muslim vs. Christians, conservative vs. liberal – they just want to be allowed to have a say in who governs them. And we should want that for them too.