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The Controversial History of Egypt’s First Democratically Elected President

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The Controversial History of Egypt’s First Democratically Elected President


Egypt’s former President Mohammed Morsi, ousted by the military in 2013 after one year in office, has collapsed in a courtroom and passed away yesterday.

Hailed as Egypt’s first democratically-elected head of state, President Morsi’s rise and fall has been a complicated one that has shown the struggles of a nation trying to gain democratic rules. Since his death, many are worried about the future of Egypt’s political history, fearing the country has become more autocratic than ever before. So we decided to do a little rundown of how we got here.

Egypt’s rocky political history

Before we understand how we ended up here, we need to understand Egypt’s political history. After declaring independence from the British in 1952, the country would go through years of military dictatorships and assassinations until they would finally end up with President Hosni Mubarik, who would rule the country with an iron fist from 1981 to 2011. His military-backed rule was marked with autocratic policies, oppression and a massive amount of corruption that put a large number of people under the poverty line.

The Arab Spring revolution

The political climate of 2011 caused populations of many different Middle Eastern and North African countries to revolt against the autocratic rule of their respective countries, some with outside backing. The population in Egypt was no different, with millions taking to the streets demanding the removal of the autocratic President Hosni. After violence and bloodshed, President Hosni was removed and tried for corruption. The military took control of the situation and held elections, which brought President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood into the mainstream.

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

To understand President Morsi’s rule, we need to understand the place of his political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. The Pan-Islamic political movement has a deep-rooted history within the country, but was finally given legitimacy after the 2011 revolution that saw them come into power under President Morsi. The movement self-stated aim is the establishment of a state ruled by Sharia law–its most famous slogan worldwide being: “Islam is the solution” This has gotten it foreign support from countries like Saudi-Arabia, helping them sieze power. When they seized power, many secularist, christians and leftist in the country were worried of a move towards a more Islamic Egypt, similar to that of Iran. These fears, coupled with the struggles of newly democratic system, saw President Morsi face many difficulties from the beginning.

Morsi’s short reign

Now what happens next really depends on who you ask. According to his opposition, President Morsi started to become the very dictator he was fighting so hard against. He passed legislature to give him unlimited power and immunized his decrees from challenge and seeking to protect the work of the constituent assembly. The left and secularists joined together asking the military to intervene within the situation, worrying about a move toward a more Islamic and autocratic country. This also lost its support from former allies like Saudi, who saw his version of democracy as a threat to their monarchy.

If you ask the President Morsi’s allies, they see all of this as an all out attempt by the military to oust the democratically elected government, with the military funding the grassroots levels campaigns against President Morsi. Either way, this led to widespread protests again in 2012-13 asking for his resignation, which was successful. After his resignation, General Sisi would take control of the country and tighten the autocratic policies of the regime.

Move back towards military dictatorship

After President Sisi came into power, the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and declared a terrorist organization, leading to over 100 arrests of it’s members, including former president Morsi. Morsi and his party members were tried and convicted of espionage and terrorism. In the process of appealing his conviction, President Morsi passed away in court yesterday. Many people have pointed out to the mistreatment he faced within custody, including him being denied medication for his diabetes. Many now believe this treatment was deliberate to cause a slow and painful death for the former leader, sending a message to Egypt and the rest of the world; the military is here to stay.

Now what?

Many feel that the original reason for the Arab Spring has been lost, as more and more autocratic countries harden their grip on the control. With his death, many believe Egypt’s hope for a new, democractic future may have died with him.

If you enjoyed that, take a look at our overview of the Sudan crisis.

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