Omar Encarnación has avery interesting post at Foreing Affairs. He argues that Egypt’s recent outrer of President Morsi fits the model of a civil society coup (described in this essay), but argues that lessons from other civil society coups suggests that Egypt is in for some rough times:
Endemic to new democracies, civil society coups entail the removal from power of an elected leader through sustained protest, usually with the aid of the military. Indeed, it is the partnership between civil society and the military — not usually known for acting in concert — that distinguishes a civil society coup from an ordinary one. More often than not, those behind the coup justify it by claiming that they intend to rescue democracy, which is paradoxical since they are, in fact, uprooting it. This is Tocqueville’s civil society gone rogue; rather than working patiently and discreetly toward improving the quality of democracy, it turns angry and restless and plots for sudden and radical political change.
. . .
But the notion that a civil society coup can restart democracy is wildly optimistic. Venezuela and the Philippines suggest two likelier scenarios. In Venezuela, waves of strikes followed the proposed nationalization of Venezuela’s national oil company (PDVSA). The military took Chávez hostage for some 48 hours before withdrawing plans to install an interim president and to call new elections, and accepting Chávez’s restoration. Forcing the military’s reversal was its realization that it could not contain Chavismo, the best-organized political force in the country, which had fierce loyalty to its founding leader — a point driven home by violent counter-coup demonstrations that left some 20 people dead. Chávez ruled Venezuela for another decade, until his death, earlier this year, becoming more vengeful and authoritarian as he went. He also turned increasingly anti-American, since he blamed the United States for his ouster. Although the evidence of American participation in the Venezuelan coup is contested, the Bush administration did cheer Chávez’s ousting as “a victory for democracy” before correcting course after most Latin American governments had denounced developments in Venezuela as a coup.
The parallels with Egypt are worth noting. As in Venezuela, the coup in Egypt pushed from power the best-organized political force in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood. Unlike Chávez, of course, Morsi is not seen by the Brotherhood rank and file as the very embodiment of the movement. But so far the movement’s leadership is resolute in its insistence that Morsi be returned to power, suggesting that his restoration cannot be ruled out. “There is no plan B,” a spokesman for the Brotherhood said to ABC News, adding, “We either return the president back to his rightful place or they are going to have to shoot us in the street.”
Read it all here. This is a fascinating essay that is well worth a read.
Charles A. Blanchard
United States Air Force