Two weeks ago, we started our discourse on the in Egypt, where we started considering whether the coup is legitimate in the eye of the law. You can read the post here.
This brought us to the part two of the discourse just last week where we examined the three popular justifications provided in support of the coup in the international community. To enable you fully comprehend our closing post on this topic today, I had suggest you try to do some catching up by reading my post last week.
This time around, we are going to be examining explored the theory of the “democratic coup d’etat”,from the point of view of Ozan Varol.
To be sure that the Egyptian military coup met the conditions that Varol has identified as seven conditions that a coup must meet to qualify as a “democratic coup d’etat”, these conditions are outlined below:
(1) the coup is staged against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime;
(2) the military responds to persistent popular opposition against that regime;
(3) the authoritarian or totalitarian regime refuses to step down in response to the popular uprising;
(4) the coup is staged by a military that is highly respected within the nation, ordinarily because of mandatory conscription;
(5) the military stages the coup to overthrow the authoritarian or
(6) the military facilitates free and fair elections within a short span of time; and
(7) the coup ends with the transfer of power to democratically elected leaders.
First, can we easily conclude that the coup was staged against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime? Had Morsi’s government become authoritarian? Secondly, is SCAF leader Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisithe highly respected in the military? What about his ties with the United States and Isreali military and intelligence academies? Can he be trusted as a true patriot or just a puppet in the hands of western powers? Lastly, we cannot say for sure if conditions six and seven would be met. Perhaps, that leaves us with very little to sustain this theory of “democratic coup” based on popular will.
The ‘guardian coup’ theory:
This theory states coup-backed governments are much more likely to result in a transition to democracy. It emphasises on the nature of response of the international community made up of international bodies and foreign states such as the United Nations and the United States respectively to coup d’etat as in Egypt in this case.
How the Egyptian leaders are also able to accustom themselves to the international response and achieve significant harmonisation with the international order is also very important here.
Interestingly, the UN and the United States have already made their positions clear about their desire for transition to a democratic government in Egypt.
One principle of the “guardian coup” theory is that the relationship between the “guardian” and the “guarded” must be a close one. This in effect means that there is a considerable level of control by the international community over the country. Thus, the United States has a close relationship with the Egyptian military, giving it, in the least, some level of military influence.
Moreover, in terms of the economy of the country, with Egypt’s heavy reliance on foreign aid, securing the co-operation of the Egyptian military for the purpose of pushing for the handover of power to a democratically elected president should not be much of a problem. Fisher believes that the dependence on Western aid will be a significant factor in getting countries such as Egypt to co-operate with a world power such as the United States:
“In the post-Cold War era those countries that are most dependent on Western aid have been the first to embrace competitive elections after the coup. Our theory also sheds light on the pronounced decline in the number of coups since 1991. While the coup d’etat has been and still is the single most important factor leading to the downfall of democratic government, our findings indicate that the new generation of coups has been far less harmful for democracy than their historical predecessors.”
Permit me to draw the curtain on this discourse by emphasising that to ensure a lasting and stable return to democracy in Egypt, the Islamists cannot be wished away. Morsi and the Brotherhood may have oppressed and suppressed the Egyptian people during his time in office, but in a true democracy, inclusion and participation must be encouraged. The protection of the fundamental human rights of the Egyptian people should also be paramount while the military rule lasts, particularly the rights of minorities.
The United Nations, with strong helping hands from the United States must help to ensure a successful transition to democracy as soon as practicable. Democracy should be the way in, and the way out, through the ballot box. There should be no shortcuts; otherwise we may end up compromising the very principles that build strong, stable and transformational democracies.
Have a coup-free week!