A leading Macedonian NGO has hosted a debate on the situation in Egypt and the Arab Spring countries, and the future of the democratic process therein. The Centre for Understanding and Institutional Cooperation (CUIC) invited Dr Daud Abdullah, the Director of Middle East Monitor (MEMO) in London, and Nevzat Çiçek, a research journalist from Turkey to be the panellists.
Speaking first in the crowded hall, Dr Abdullah gave an overview of coups in African countries over the years, almost none of which resulted in the democratisation of the countries involved. In the period between 1945 and 2008, he revealed, 353 coups have occurred, with six of them taking control over a civil government. He stressed the fact that Egypt was one of the first countries which gained independence from colonialism and the first to experience a coup, in 1952.
"The current reality of Egypt is that the July coup is a dangerous occurrence which calls into question the democratic processes in the country," the MEMO director explained. Nevertheless, he insisted that he is optimistic about a positive solution because the people of Egypt are eager for freedom and have the potential to manage the process. "The people lost their fear of the authorities during the 2001 revolution," he said, "and this has been seen in the way that the anti-coup protesters have stood up to the security forces, despite the killings."
Dr Abdullah suggested that a battle for the identity of Egypt is under way, with the choice between Islamic or secular. "The solution at this time, though, is for talks to be held and for the politicians to focus on the economy and poverty in Egypt, which are the biggest concerns of the people."
The second speaker in the public debate, Nevzat Çiçek, has reported recently from the hot spots of the Middle East, including Palestine, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Syria and Egypt. He looked at media manipulation and the reality in such countries. Openly critical of the Arab media which, he said, has created an information blackout about what is really happening in Egypt Çiçek noted that the democratic awareness of Muslims and willingness to change has "flabbergasted" the West. However, the fact that the free and democratic elections have brought Islamic parties to power is a disappointment to Western governments, he claimed, resulting in many of the countries turning against the democratic process.
The Turkish journalist said that the pressure applied to overthrow Mohamed Morsi in Egypt and his democratic government was intended to discredit the best example of an Arab state's transition to democracy so that it would not have a positive impact on other countries. "This was also one of the reasons that Saudi Arabia and some other Arab countries supported the military coup against President Morsi," he added, "and are helping the coup forces financially." Such forces, he pointed out, failed to take over the country by democratic means and had to resort to a military coup supported with foreign intervention to seize power.
Both speakers fielded a number of questions after their presentations in a lively and engaging session.
In drawing the debate to a close, a representative of the CUIC condemned the military coup on Egypt and the resulting overthrow of President Morsi, the suspension of the Constitution and the dissolution of the elected institutions. The Centre supports the peaceful protests and is extremely critical of the violence meted out against the protesters. It called upon the international community to protect the humanitarian and democratic values it espouses by abandoning the sort of double standards which have been applied to the situation in Egypt to-date.