It is one year ago in Egypt and, after 30 years under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has just democratically elected Mohamed Morsi as the next President of Egypt. Hardly anyone knows what to think. After all, the Egyptian protests were characterized by lacking any form of unified leadership, and young Egyptians—the driving force behind sparking said protests—had never known another Egyptian leader outside of Mubarak. In fact, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were not even involved in the protests until there was a realization that they could take power when no other viable options rose to the forefront.
Today, Morsi has been overthrown by the Egyptian military. Some media sources are reluctant to use the dreaded term ‘military coup’, but that is exactly what it is. According to the military, Morsi is no longer president. The underlying irony is, of course, that a coup d’état is apparently serving the will of the Egyptian people to overthrow a democratically elected president. That this would happen, Morsi’s ousting, is not surprising, but what is surprising is just how quickly Egyptians chose to revert back to military rule for the time being.
There are several reasons why Morsi’s days were numbered, and he certainly did not do much to win over the trust of the people who elected him. Partially because Mubarak loyalists blocked any initiatives Morsi tried to pass, he rejected a constitutional provision limiting presidential power and rewarded himself with unlimited power. This, essentially a dictatorship, is exactly what young Egyptians protested against when they called for the removal of Mubarak: an outdated form of governance during an age in which the world and its forms of governance are rapidly liberalizing. He alienated the military by firing many distinguished officials. And he forced an Islamist agenda grounded upon Sharia Law.
But most importantly, Morsi simply did not hone in on fixing the main issue that prompted Egyptians to protest in the first place two years ago: an economy that is on the brink of collapse. Egyptians did not like that their country was autocratic, but if job prospects, education, infrastructure, and poverty reductions were on the rise then a revolution would have never occurred. Egyptians, young Egyptians, protested against Mubarak because they could not find jobs, were facing poverty, and had limited health care and education prospects. And they still are. Millions of Egyptians are also facing severe power and fuel outages. Morsi was expected to confront these issues, but instead he decided to focus on foreign policy to build strategic and economic partnerships with other nations.
Despite any efforts Morsi may have tried to make in the foreign policy realm, given the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, he was never going to have the support of the likes of the United States, Israel, or Saudi Arabia. Translation: Morsi was up against money and influence on the global stage. Coupled with his confounding lack of focus on making domestic strides to employ, educate, and take care of a demanding Egyptian populace, 70% of which is under the age of 30, he gave himself little chance to stay in power. Obviously a year is not a long enough timeframe to produce sweeping results, but when just about every decision that he made contradicted what Egyptians protested in favor of, Morsi expedited his swift freefall.
So what’s next for Egypt? Well, it’s hard to predict given the fact that everything that has seemed to happen in the last 3 years in Egypt is paradoxical. To recap, a couple years ago Egyptians protest a president in Mubarak whose policies were deemed outdated and out-of-touch with the youth of Egypt. Yet, they democratically elect Mohamed Morsi: a social conservative whose economic policies vaguely call for economic liberalization void of specificities or any concrete plan altogether. Now, having realized their mistake, Egyptians have taken to the streets to oust Morsi. The problem is that this now leaves the military, at least currently, in power: and the military, which seized control of Egypt from February 2011 to June 2012, the time-period between Mubarak and Morsi, certainly did not show any promise during their 16 months in power.
Ultimately, Egyptians are a proud people that assume responsibility for setting an example of stability for the rest of a volatile region that has historically looked to Egypt for guidance. And they want someone in power who is focused on fixing an economy that is, at the moment, not receptive to enabling a high standard of living for its young people. As a secondary concern, they want a social moderate. Morsi did not fit the bill, and it took Egyptians a year to recognize that they prematurely elected a man who lacked a platform that was consistent with the desires of the people. And, in fairness to the Egyptian people, no sound leaders stepped up to the plate to represent them—and they had to settle for Morsi. So the next step is to find someone(s) that will serve the will of the people. Easier said than done though; for if Egyptians had that option a year ago, then this last year may just not have been one most analysts would deem as a year wasted.