“If the people take away this right, he can’t remain in control.”

Here‘s an interesting and illustrative episode on Egypt. On Israeli television, a  young Egyptian woman on Tahrir square answers some questions in fluent Hebrew.

In the interview, the lady responds to the notion that Morsi was democratically elected. Agreed, she says, but: “any president, anywhere in the world, gets his legitimacy from the people. If the people take away this right, he can’t remain in control.”

Given this view, she continues to advise Israelis: “If Bibi [Netanyahu] and Lapid aren’t doing their job, remove them, bring someone who will do for you what you want.”

But the interviewer worries about Brotherhood violence, now that they’ve been forced from power. No worries, the lady responds: the Brotherhood “knows our army won’t just watch such a thing happen, and will act against anyone who imagines he could hurt our nation. We’re not Syria, and never will be.” No Egyptian, she replied when asked, “was afraid of his [own] army. Our military, it and the people are one hand… The people, in practice, are the army.”

In these few lines, as they say, lies all the rub. It’s actually a mistake to think that, as soon as ‘the people’ are unhappy with a leader, they can just tell him to step aside. And it’s a compounded mistake when the army is asked to force the leader out! This violates precisely the non-violence, the organized turn-taking, of elections. Elected parties need to have a certain regular time in office, precisely so that in times when they are not elected, they know there will be future chances of the same kind, and there is no reason to use the bullet. This precept has now been violated in Egypt; its trust in elections broken, it would not be surprising if the Brotherhood now sees violence as a way forward.


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