(...) “Turkish model.” It is, rather like the “Turkish vice,” If in Victorian times it was thought that the Ottoman court had an unusually permissive attitude to homosexuality, in modern Turkey there are supposed to exist impeccably democratic and moderate Islamists, who marry strict religious dogma with fidelity to parliamentary institutions and the rule of law.
In the early stages of Egypt’s revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood let it be known that it understood the need for moderation. That while it had been allowed more space by the Mubarak regime than competing political forces, it realised it did not really represent as broad a swathe of Egyptian society as its electoral strength would suggest. It wouldn’t contest more than a quarter of the seats. But then a quarter became a third, a third a “majority,” and eventually the majority expanded to include every seat for which it could muster a candidate.
And since then Mohammed Morsi, the Brotherhood’s backup president (the movement’s first choice having been excluded on a technicality) has seized every opportunity to increase his, and his movement’s, power. There was the terrorist attack in the Sinai, after which he dismissed top generals. The constitutional convention, originally planned to be broadly representative of Egypt, rammed through Islamist doctrine, its work accelerated by a (metaphorical) guillotine. We shouldn’t forget, as well, that Morsi only won very narrowly against Ahmed Shafik, an unpopular apparatchik of the old regime, in a run-off generated from a field winnowed by a farcical catalogue of abstruse disqualifications. (...)
Morsi understands very well that political power goes to the man that controls the processes of its exercise, but he appears to have forgotten that however disciplined and hierarchical the Muslim Brotherhood itself may be, Egypt is considerably more difficult to control. Each of his previous power grabs worked because the opposition was divided or demoralised. Thinking his international cover secure, having taken credit for Hamas’s ceasefire last December, he executed what in Latin America is called an autogolpe, or self-coup, by means of a decree eliminating all constitutional checks on his power. After intense protests this time he backed down. (...)