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People Power

The advent of still further protest in Cairo, which has now sparked a military coup, might be seen as just another of the convulsions shaking the Islamic world. The Islamist government in Ankara continues to face public outcry and even in Iran, the election of a relative moderate is seen as a significant defeat for the ultra-conservative "supreme leader" of the Islamic Republic. It is easy to dismiss these convulsions as just another example of the instability of the Islamic world in general and the Near and Middle East in particular.

Some wiseacres now suggest that the revolutions in North Africa have been a wrong turn, and that the dictatorships that preceded them were somehow better, since they provided stability and order as opposed to chaos and violence. Personally I find it quite hard to share this opinion. The fact is that the largely military regimes provided the stability of the grave and were long past their sell-by date. The fact that such violence has exploded after the fall of Mubarak et al is a sign of the total failure- not success- of those regimes- they lacked the flexibility to deal with rapid social change with any response beyond repression. Sooner or later repression fails- as it has across the Arab world over the past four years.

As messy and difficult as they are to achieve, the only solutions for the problems of the Arab world are political ones. Thus, the military coup in Egypt is unlikely to be successful, albeit that the military acted with the support of the mob. Mobs are notoriously fickle, and the removal of President Morsi by force- even allowing for the disputes over his own democratic mandate- now leaves some serious questions which the military will struggle to answer: in particular, how Egypt can move towards a more democratic and pluralist government that can address the deep social and economic problems of the country. That the most populous Arab nation is undergoing such convulsions does not bode well for the wider Arab world.

Now the Muslim Brotherhood, which provided the platform for the Morsi government, can genuinely claim that their legitimate political program has been the subject of repression- and even after the coup, millions of Egyptians still support the policies of the now deposed regime. I note that today rallies are being held in defiance of the coup- and I suspect that the violence used to turn out the Morsi government will now be turned against the new regime.

Sooner or later there will need to be a national council and reconciliation- I can only hope that this does not come after a civil conflict on a scale we have- so far- not seen in Egypt. The warning of Syria stands before us, and an Egyptian conflict would be very likely to move way beyond the country's borders.        

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