From Democracy to Military Dictatorship: Egypt 2013 = Chile 1973

Azzam Tamimi
Content Type
Journal Article
Insight Turkey
Issue Number
Publication Date
Winter 2014
SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
During the months leading up to July 3, 2013, the state of Egypt mirrored that of Chile 40 years ago. What Egypt's Mohamed Mursi and Chile's Salvador Allende shared was the misfortune of coming to power with a relatively large majority and an adamant refusal to surrender. While there is no evidence of U.S. involvement in the process, America and its allies in the European Union have refrained from calling what happened in Egypt a coup. Egypt – much like Chile – will likely return to the path of democracy, though after considerable time and effort, and a projected roadmap that will likely generate further economic hardship and instability.
Political Geography
Europe, Egypt, Chile
For months, leading up to the climax on the third of July 2013, the Egyptian theatre was being set for a melodrama no less sensational than the one that unfolded on the Chilean theatre nearly forty years earlier. Yet, despite the striking resemblances, there have been some important dissimilarities. For one, the Egyptian coup d'état was not orchestrated primarily by the CIA, but allegedly by the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with tacit and active support from Jordan, Kuwait, Israel, and the U.S. Obama Administration. These regional and international players shared the concern of the local Egyptian secular liberal and nationalist elite that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and some other parts of the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring was likely to threaten their long term interests. Unlike the Chilean coup, where democratically elected President Salvador Allende was mysteriously liquidated on the day he was ousted by his Defense Minister Augusto Pinochet, Egypt's democratically elected President Muhammad Mursi was detained in an undisclosed location for nearly four months from the day he was toppled until he was paraded before a Cairo court on Monday the 4th of November, 2013. Whereas the Chilean coup authorities seemed to know what they wanted and how to achieve it, the Egyptian military and its liberal allies appeared unsure, confused, and incoherent. President Mursi, whose appearance his ousters wanted to use to their own advantage, stood defiantly telling the court judges he did recognize their court and insisted he was the legitimate, democratically elected, leader of the nation. In President Mursi's first public appearance since the coup, albeit quite brief, he charged his supporters and fuelled their defiant rejection of the post coup regime. This points to a third difference between the Chilean and the Egyptian cases. Whereas in the former, the military managed to crush the opposing popular uprising immediately, in the latter, protests have not subsided since the coup in early July. This is despite the heavy-handedness of both the military and the police, as they perpetrated atrocities against their opponents. According to unofficial estimates no less than ten thousand people have so far lost their lives and many thousands, who happen to be primarily leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been incarcerated. With the entire top leadership of the Brotherhood in detention, the street protests have adopted an increasingly decentralized organization. Students and young people seem to have taken over with no signs of fatiguing. On 13 November 2013, a press conference was held in Cairo by a team of lawyers who volunteered to defend President Mursi. The main theme of the press conference was a statement written by President Mursi and read to the press on his behalf by the head of the legal team. The gist of the statement was President Mursi's insistence that he was still the legitimate president of Egypt and that those who betrayed him and betrayed the people will soon be brought to justice. He stressed that what had happened on the 3rd of July 2013 was a full fledged military coup d'état and called the coup an act of treason against God, His Messenger, the Egyptian army, the Egyptian people, and a betrayal of the oath made before him by the minister of defense who led the coup. President Mursi insisted that Egypt could never regain its well being unless all repercussions of the coup were eliminated and those responsible for shedding the blood of Egyptians were brought to trial. He explained that he was kidnapped on the 2nd of July and placed under arrest inside the headquarters of the Republican Guard until the morning of the 5th of July 2013 when he was removed against his will and transferred to a naval base belonging to the Egyptian armed forces. He added that throughout the four months he had been in custody he only saw EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Ashton, the Delegation of African Elders, and Egyptian prosecutors. Mursi refused to answer questions put to him by the coup prosecutors. He stated that doing so would have been in violation of the constitution he swore to uphold. Saluting the Egyptian people who stood against the coup and the martyrs, the detainees and the wounded, President Morsi assured the Egyptian people and the peoples of the world at large that the steadfastness of the Egyptians had defeated the coup, which would ultimately fail.