On Monday, Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi announced his resignation, and that of his cabinet, in what marks the fifth departing government since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26335291). No explicit reasoning for this decision have been made public, but it is widely believed to be a result of the increased level of protests, strikes, and violence in the country. A shortage of cooking gas nationwide, coupled with strikes throughout all sectors of the economy and protests against the government’s treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood, have destabilized the country dramatically.
It is those actions taken against the Muslim Brotherhood, the party/political organization of the recently ousted president Mohammad Morsi, which have led to the bulk of the violence witnessed in recent months. Well over 1,000 people have been killed by government forces, with many thousand more being imprisoned, as a result of the outrage from Muslim Brotherhood members following the coup. The government has claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is responsible for attacks in Egypt against police and military forces and, in December, labeled them as a terrorist organization. The Muslim Brotherhood has denied the accusations vigorously, and many argue that the crackdown on the party is an attempt to eliminate one of the military’s main sources of opposition (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/02/24/world/africa/egypt-politics/index.html).
The recent events, coupled with the approaching, constitutionally mandated, elections in April pose several issues/questions that Egypt will have to address. First, how does the country reconcile their espoused desire for democracy with the designation of their most organized, competitive, political party as a terrorist group? While it is clear that former president Morsi did not always act or govern in a democratic manner, it is extremely worrying to those who seek to promote democracy in Egypt that this interim government is stifling one of the few viable opposition parties in the country. It has been noted that Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of the military and almost certainly the military’s candidate for president, will essentially be running uncontested in April. This lack of opposition, when considered along side the long history of military rule in Egypt, appears to many to be a return to the authoritarianism of Mubarak. Second, can any assurances be made that new administration following April’s election will not meet the same fate as Morsi’s? Assuming Field Marshall Sisi is elected, which most experts agree is extremely likely, does Egypt’s lack of a democratic tradition make probable that the new administration will fall victim to a coup led by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood? Or, in contrast, has the outbreak of new violence in Egypt following the coup of Morsi made it clear that a coup cannot be an option for anyone who wishes to a democratic, stable, Egypt?