The forced removal of Egypt’s President Morsi by the army and his subsequent arrest has met with mixed responses both in Egypt and in the West. There was clearly a lot of vocal opposition in Egypt to Morsi and the Muslim Botherhood government. But does this justify a military coup? And why has the UK and other Western governments been unwilling to call this a coup? It is hard to imagine that the UK would not condemn for example a military coup in Greece. Yet the situation in Greece is far from stable with strong opposition to the current government. The same could be said of Spain and Portugal. Yet nobody thinks it would be any kind of answer for the military to step in and arrest the government. Is their a whiff of racism here? We in Europe are democrats, while Arabs are not quite up to this yet? This seems to be the basis for most comment in the West. Yet Morsi was democratically elected President in fair and free elections only one year ago. While there is little the West or anyone else can do to stop the Egyptian military from mounting a coup, the West can loudly and roundly condemn such a move. The West could also impose sanctions on the new military government until Morsi is re-instated. But clearly the West did not approve of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. So why bother to help him in his time of need? Much better to stick with our tried and tested friends in the Middle East – those bastions of democracy and liberalism such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. The West does not need to condemn these countries since they are not democratic anyway and this lack of democracy has never bothered Western governments in the past. There could be something healthy about this, if only our governments would admit it openly. Just get rid of the hypocrisy. For all our talk of promoting democracy, the West has never found it easy to accept the results of democratic elections when they result in governments that do not instinctively support the West. In these cases we are quite happy to support and even assist in their removal. Much better a tame and friendly dictator than a vibrant and potentially hostile democracy.
So it is all too predictable that our governments in the West would turn a blind eye to what is clearly a military coup. It is not at all clear just what the millions of protesters hope to get out of this. To repeat the basic fact once again, Morsi was elected President in an open and democratic election. While it is legitimate to protest against this or that policy, it is never legitimate to call for an elected government to be forcibly removed. Last year the various opposition groups had their chance to get organised and present a united front against the Muslim Brotherhood. But here lies the rub. The opposition is far from united, other than opposing Morsi. It is not at all clear that another election, if the military allow one, will produce a different result. What evidence is there that the various deeply divided opposition forces can get together now that Morsi has gone? Which raises the question as to what will happen to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood? Will they be set free and allowed to run candidates in new elections? And if not, what kind of democracy will that be? The whole essence of democracy is that you win at the ballot box, not through the military. This of course assumes that the military allow new elections and allow free and fair elections. Their record on this account is none too promising. If violence and force is what counts two can play at that game. What happens if the Muslim Brotherhood decides to mount an armed struggle against the current government. Given the West’s support for the rebels in Syria, how would our governments react to an armed struggle in the name of restoring an elected President. The omens are not good for Egypt. This is primarily a matter for Egyptians. But it is sad that our government is so unwilling to condemn a military coup against an elected President. This is yet another very bad precedent for us to set.