Debate Magazine

The Failure of Morsi and Its Impact on Turkey

Posted on the 20 July 2013 by Shahalexander
The fall of President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt inflicts serious damages to those who advocate democratic Islamism. The Arab Spring gave rise to them. Democratic Islamism is nothing new as AKP (Justice and development Party) took office in Turkey long before the Spring. However, the coup d'état in Egypt has curbed the momentum for Islamic populism. Particularly, Turkish AKP’s vision of Islamist democracy was severely hit. Trends in both countries lead to the decline of Islamic populism in the Middle East. That is the vital reason why I am exploring the implications of anti-Morsi coup in Egypt to Turkey. Therefore, I would like to argue two points. First, why did the Morsi administration fail to govern Egypt? Second, what are the implications for Turkey and others who aspire Islamist democracy?
Morsi succeeded in toppling the long rule of police state under the Nasser, the Sadat, and the Mubarak administrations, since the 1952 revolution. However, Michael Hirsh, Chief Correspondent for National Journal, comments "Once again, an Islamist political party in charge has failed the simple test of finding its way into the modern world. Ideology trumped reality in an era when the reality of the global economy demands fast integration, openness, and adherence to basic economic principles." Islamists seize the power through the vote, but failed to govern the state. Iranians selected the most moderate Hassan Rowhani in the last presidential election because the Shiite theocracy since 1979 . Other extremists like Hamas also have difficulties to govern the Gaza Strip. In Turkey, the Erdoğan administration faces civic protests, though the economy goes well (“After A Rapid Rise, A Challenge To Political Islam”; NPR News; July 6, 2013).
The Muslim Brotherhood may have won the election, but they are political amateurs. Kori Schake, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, comments that in a society after the collapse of an authoritarian regime, incapable groups often take power, and they have little experience of building a national consensus (“American Freedom and Egypt's Coup”; Foreign Policy – Shadow Government; July 3, 2013). Nathan Brown, Nonresident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues furthermore that the Morsi administration failed to make coalition with other political parties. They clung to their own ideology rather than managing realities, and ruined opportunities for partnership with potential allies. The Muslim Brotherhood made bad decisions to become a dominant political party from a leading political organization. As a result, Morsi was distrusted, or even hated among the Egyptian public. The Muslim Brotherhood was overconfident to govern the state despite their lack of experience, simply because they won the election (“Where Does the Muslim Brotherhood Go From Here?”; New Republic; July 3, 2013). This lesson for Islamists, mentioned by Brown, sounds somewhat identical to the “Seiken Koutai” (power rotation) of 2009 by the Democratic Party in Japan, which resulted in miserable failure to govern the state.
Regretfully, Morsi became an elected dictator as he despised consultation and public consensus, both of which are important aspects of democracy. Democracy is composed of human rights, the rule of law, and public participation; and election is just one of those components (“When coups advance democracy”; New York Daily News; July 7, 2013). Michael Rubin, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, comments that the Muslim Brotherhood was measles for Egypt. Morsi imposed religion, and did not improve the economy, though that was the vital issue for the Egyptian people. But the Brotherhood’s secret cell structure is still formidable enough to plot possible terrorism. See the video below.

Then, let me discuss the second question, which is the implications for Turkey. Since the inauguration of Mohamed Morse in 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan founded a strong tie with Egypt to prevail the vision of more democratic and more Islamist-leaning Middle East. As a consequence of the coup d'état, Turkey has become isolated in this region. The war in Syria intensifies tensions with the Assad administration. Also, relations with pro-Assad Iran are aggravated. The Kurdish problem worsens the relationship with Iraq. Moreover, Turkey itself has repeated coup d'état in the postwar era when civilian rule does not work (“Egypt’s coup is a serious blow to Turkey’s vision of a more democratic Middle East”; Financial Times; July 4, 2013).
The military backlash against Morsi poses critical impacts on Turkey’s domestic politics as well. The Turkish government toughens law enforcement against street protesters in the wake of Egyptian coup. The Turkish judiciary also calls for universal jurisdiction against the Egyptian army’s human rights abuse, associated with the coup. However, the West was concerned with Morsi’s poor governance capacity, and takes equivocal attitude to the coup d'état. In the eyes of Turkey, that appears a double standard, and Turkish people even talk about a Western conspiracy to oust Morsi. As a result, Turkey’s relations with the West is cooling down (“Egypt coup rattles Turkey’s Erdogan”; Financial Times; July 11, 2013). Currently, AKP’s Turkey is isolated from both the West and Middle East neighbors. Things are developing opposite to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s blueprint of a Turkey at the heart of the Afro-Eurasian sphere.
Whether in Egypt, Turkey, or any other countries in the Middle East, the Islamist paradoxes are witnessed, that is, they took power by popular vote but betrayed democracy. It is poor governance capabilities that allowed repeated coup d'états both in Egypt and Turkey. Even though the coup saved Egypt from falling into a failed state, such dependence on military coup d'état stalls the progress of real democracy and good governance. How should the global community respond to such vicious cycles of failed civilian rule and military dictatorship?
Robert Kagan, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, mentions that the fact that the military can dispose an elected government so easily implies that the real and long lasting power lies in the armed forces. If the military depose a democratically elected government, it can depose another. In order to stop such a cycle, Kagan insists that the United States send a message to the interim government to urge early transition to democracy (“Time to break out of a rut in Egypt”; Washington Post; July 6, 2013). Once Kagan’s prescription works to end military rule, the United States and the global community can use soft power, primarily by empowering the grassroots to promote well-aware policy debates.
Like Egypt, Turkey has also had coup d'états in its postwar history. However, Turkey’s AKP is more experienced and competent to govern the state than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. In addition, thanks to a good economy, the wealthy establishment give some support, though they detest Islamic populism. Despite Islamist backgrounds, Erdoğan’s AKP tries to associate itself with European conservatives like Christian Democrats. Though the Erdoğan cabinet takes strong stances against civic unrest, the Copenhagen criteria of the European Union will deter radicalization of AKP and human rights abuse. When those built-in-stabilizers do not work, and the military do not tolerate instability, Turkey may fall into another Egypt. If that happens, every effort for Middle East democracy up to the present will fall back. This is a tremendous disadvantage in the War on Terror. Therefore, the United States and the global community must endorse smooth and quick transition to democracy in Cairo.

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