Not in their worst nightmares could the coup leaders have imagined that events would have unfolded as they did. They had carefully drafted each detail and planned the coup diligently. They started by dissolving the General Assembly, while planning for the dissolution of the Shura Council, and they worked on involving Morsi in the constitutional declaration that came too early in order to prevent the dissolution of the Council as well as the Constituent Assembly. The next expected move was to challenge the election of the president if they were unable to overthrow him through creating the kind of chaos that justifies a military coup; and they have even prepared an argument against the president being nominated by the General Assembly (which is not constitutional, and so neither, they will claim, is the nomination of the president).
It seems like they found that a coup resulting from a programmed “popular will” was the best in terms of political ousting, so they arranged for the creation of “Tamarod” after it became clear that the formal opposition was unable to gather more than a few thousand protesters on the streets. June 30th was the end result of a remnant-sectarian gathering backed by some of the January 25th Revolution forces.
The next part of the programme required them to organise a decorative democracy, similar to those during Hosni Mubarak’s reign, where the Islamists are given a share in the Parliament, not exceeding 20 per cent, while everything else is under the control of the new de facto ruler (in this case Al-Sisi) and so things go on, exactly the way that they and the Arabs backing the coup, with the support of America and the West, planned it.
Up to a point, for they did not expect the supporters of constitutional legitimacy to persevere for so long. They have lasted 40 days without leaving the squares, and their protests have filled streets all over the country. During this time, the foundations on which the coup was established are breaking down, one after the other, starting, of course, with the claim that the coup was a result of the people’s will. That was built around the lie that 30 million people protested when, in fact, only around 2 million took to the streets all over the country.
The matter did not stop there; the coup leaders are promoting exclusion, at the expense of the Islamists, whose eradication as a political power is sought. Things became even more ridiculous when Al-Sisi called on the people to take to the streets in order to give him a mandate to confront “the potential violence and terrorism” in the country. Meanwhile, the Republican Guard massacre had made reasonable people very critical; killing unarmed people as they protested peacefully led to the army’s halo slipping in the eyes of most reasonable people.
The most prominent aspect of the resilience shown by the supporters of legitimacy is certainly the fact that nobody tries to justify the coup any more by claiming that it was the result of “popular will”. Those who gathered in the streets and squares in favour of constitutional legitimacy were the largest crowds in the history of the country, and the most powerful and insistent. They were not only from the Brotherhood but also from the many forces targeted by the coup, such as the Wasat Party, Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail and Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, along with other Salafist parties and groups.
The killings, arrests and general harassment haven’t stopped the people protesting in support of legitimacy and the world has warned that dispersing peaceful demonstrations with violence is unacceptable. This is not out of concern for the protesters but out of the fear that Egypt will descend into even more chaos and violent disorder. Using force in such a way does not guarantee that the demonstrations will end. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s call for peaceful protests there is no way to predict how the youth might react to more state violence.
This has prompted a number of international and Arab interventions. President Morsi himself met with the EU’s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, and then others went to negotiate with Khairat El-Shater and Saad Katatni in their prison cells. Some of the Brotherhood leaders being detained are being held for “collaborating” with Qatar, whose Minister of Foreign Affairs was part of the delegation sent to negotiate with them, along with the US Deputy Secretary of State. That is how ridiculous the charade has become.
It is difficult to determine what the result of the ongoing attempts to negotiate will be, as the coup leaders have mischievous partners, including some who call on them to use the military to resolve the matter once and for all and eradicate the protesters; others tell them to be patient or accept a compromise.
The picture is expected to be a little clearer in the coming days. One thing is already certain, though; the defence of constitutional legitimacy will not stop, and nor will the January 25 Revolution. Moreover, the coup leaders are unlikely to win many plaudits for the way that things have panned out, even if they have passed the first stage with the military in control and some degree of foreign support.
The author is a Jordanian writer. This article was first published in Ad Dustour newspaper on 7 August, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.