Egypt and Turkey, military and democracy

The democratic experiment in Egypt continues without a clear destination in sight.

Contrasts and contradictions in the process make it difficult to be optimistic about the end result. On the one hand a democratic election was held for the presidency, but on the other the power of the elected president has severely been curbed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Parliament was formed last year by a popular election and began functioning but the Constitutional Court recently dissolved it. Egyptians now have a democratically elected president who has neither a parliament nor a democratic constitution, but instead only the SCAF overseeing him.

All of this makes the Egyptian military the new “king maker” of the country. It has carved an autonomous political and economic space by positioning itself over all state institutions. In fact the Egyptian military is now what the late Samuel Huntington called “ruling but not governing military/” This was in fact the position of the Turkish military after the 1961 constitution that made the rules of the game, determined the limits of the governing civilians and established itself as the supervising institution all over state institutions. In this the responsibility belonged to the civilians who were elected by the people but the real power remained within the hands of the military. The elected civilians were supposed to build dams, roads, hospitals, but not interfere in the basic determinants of the system including the constitution of the state and the identity of the nation.

This is to say that in the Turkish tutelage democracy the politicians sat in the driver’s seat, but the wheel was commanded by the military. Yet the presence of a semi-democratic system provided the military tutelage with popular legitimacy.

I am afraid Egypt is drifting towards this old “Turkish model” military rule hidden behind the legitimacy of an electoral democracy which is incapable of evolving into a fully functioning liberal democracy. Thus democratic elements recently inserted into the system may remain a mere façade for a military dominated tutelary regime in Egypt.

What I see in Egypt is incredibly familiar to what we have experienced in Turkey for around fifty years. I think the elements of the old regime in Egypt is imitating the “Turkish model” the old version in which democratic actors and institutions existed along with the tutelary ones. But the trick of this system is that tutelary institutions not the representative bodies have the ultimate say.

Elections are held, governments are formed according to the popular elections and parliaments function. But the political actors and institutions are granted to function within a limited area. This was the model for years in Turkey. In such model popular participation in terms of elections will only serve to legitimization of the tutelage.

Egyptian politicians, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood that is eager to cooperate with the military in order to protect the new democratic elements in the system may end up being a simple an organization that legitimizes military tutelage. The longevity of the military tutelage was guaranteed by this way in Turkey since 1961. The Egyptians should decide. Not to cooperate with the military and leave it on its own without providing it with popular legitimacy may indeed mean a shorter and safer way to attain democracy.

Otherwise the military establishes itself as indispensible in the system. Under a military tutelage it is the politicians who are accountable and responsible to the people. Once they fail in providing services or get stuck into a political crisis the whole blame go to the politicians. They will be regarded corrupt, self-interest seeking, incapable of governing the country. Thus they will lose the trust of the people while the military that places all the rules of the game and makes the system impossible to function properly would emerge an immaculately clean, self-sacrificing and capable. As a result the military will emerge as the occasional savior of the system.

The advantage of Egypt is that there is no such thing like Kemalism that would provide the tutelage system with an ideological justification. Protecting the “Kemalist regime” was effectively used in Turkey to curb the power and mandate of the popularly elected governments.

Yet we know that authoritarian regimes do not have any shortage of excuses. Securitization of politics is shortcut to hijack the power of the elected by the military. In the Egyptian case there are avenues of securitization. Relations with Israel have always been fertile ground Middle Eastern regimes to suppress politics, prioritize security and postpone democracy.

Egyptian people would be happy to see the military setting limits to a Brotherhood dominated parliament and the Brotherhood’s elected president. The SCAF will even be encouraged to act as “deterrent” to the political and social extremities of the Brotherhood.

I am sorry to say but I see the Egyptian revolution is being hijacked by the military and the opportunists.


Today’s Zaman, 01.07.2012

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