Morsi Protests: Millions Demand Morsi's Resignation, But That's Not the Solution Egypt Needs
Egyptians have taken to the streets in protest of President Mohammed Morsi, coming out in the millions and demanding his ouster. Morsi, since being democratically elected in June 2012, has taken a number of steps to consolidate his own power, leaving many Egyptians disillusioned. Although Morsi's actions are often undemocratic, authoritarian, and unjustified, his removal from office is not the solution; if Egypt wants a stable, democratic state, it needs to develop ways to curb the power of the president or else it will simply happen again with the next one.
Egyptians are angry — and rightly so. Millions have filled the streets and squares in cities across the country, upset that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-led government has not brought about the change that they had hoped for after the forced resignation of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. While the vast majority of the protesters were peaceful, there were clashes on Monday morning between armed Muslim Brotherhood members and protesters, leaving four dead and 45 injured.
Morsi's election was the end result of demands by the Egyptian people during the Arab Spring of 2011 for a democratically elected government, unlike Mubarak before him, who had ruled continuously for 30 years. However, almost immediately after taking power, he turned his back to the revolution. He reneged on his promises to the National Front, a part of the revolutionary forces key to his election, which included forming a "national salvation" government. He then proceeded to make friends with all the same brutal, corrupt officials that had served Mubarak. Instead of changing the system, he embraced it — with himself at the top this time. He tried to pass a constitutional decree that would have made him immune from judicial oversight, which was met with outrage, forcing him to back down. He regularly imprisons critics (prompting Jon Stewart's critique that he "can't take a joke.")
Despite having legitimate concerns with Morsi, his ouster is not the answer. A peaceful, stable, democratic state cannot simply throw its leaders out when they do something against the population's will. There has to be a control mechanism — a systematic way for the government to check the power of the executive so that it is not legally nor practically able to turn itself into a king. In the United States, this is the well-known system of checks and balances between the three branches of government, although this is not a Western-centric call for Egypt to "be like us." Egyptians must develop their own system of checks and balances — one that doesn't require half the country coming out on the street to protest.
Morsi had the historic opportunity to work towards this system but kowtowed in the face of an entrenched, powerful opposition. It's not easy to change a system whose administrators are its largest benefactors. But you have to try — especially when so much trust is placed in you by the Egyption people. Especially when they are watching your every move to make sure that you follow through on your promises. And especially when, if you don't follow through, they'll take to the streets in the same way they did before.
The Egyptian population, then, is currently serving as a check on Morsi's power until the government can put together a system of its own. While admirable, it's not sustainable. Egypt needs a government that can compensate for overreach without issuing overreaching punishments. The population is making clear that it will no longer tolerate authoritarianism, but what replaces it remains to be seen.