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Opinion

Be inclusive, Morsi, or you may face a second Egyptian revolution

Will it take a second revolution to complete Egypt’s democratic transition? Anti-government protesters plan to turn out in massive numbers Sunday. President Mohamed Morsi should heed cries for more inclusiveness. Otherwise, he may find himself toppled like Mubarak.

By David A. SuperOp-ed contributor / June 28, 2013

Egyptian protesters chant slogans against President Mohammed Morsi in Damietta, Egypt, in late June. Thousands of backers of Egypt's Islamist president rallied Friday in Cairo in a show of support ahead of planned opposition protests this weekend demanding his removal. Op-ed contributor David A. Super writes, 'Morsi would be wise to heed the demands of the opposition for a roadmap to national reconciliation.'

Hamada Elrasam/AP

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Washington

Will it take a second revolution to complete Egypt’s democratic transition, begun more than two years ago? Many Egyptians think so, and they are planning massive demonstrations on Sunday in an attempt to oust President Mohamed Morsi from office.

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Mr. Morsi, an Islamist with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected last year. Sunday is the anniversary of his inauguration, and his supporters plan counter-demonstrations. Morsi maintains that the ballot box is the way to change leaders, and he’s right – when elections take place in a democracy.

But Egypt is now under the tight control of a political duopoly of the military and Morsi and his Islamist allies. It has no lawful parliament. Its constitution was created without the input of secular democrats. Opposition activists are under arrest.

Many protesters who started Cairo’s Tahrir Square demonstrations for freedom and rights in 2011 now say their revolution has been hijacked, and they’re right, too.

The increasingly anti-democratic regime reached its nadir this month when it convicted three dozen Egyptian and Western employees of pro-democracy non-profits – most of the Westerners in abstentia – for conducting voter education efforts. Sentences ranged from one to five years.

A month earlier, it arrested Ahmed Maher, who co-founded the April 6 youth protest movement, though he was later released pending trial. His communications savvy and raw courage helped pro-democracy demonstrators take and hold Tahrir Square, and ultimately oust dictator Hosni Mubarak.

But after the fall of Mr. Mubarak, who was an Air Force general, the military retained power through a junta of other generals. The generals retained Mubarak’s dreaded security police and their well-documented reliance on torture. The junta arrested bloggers and other activists for non-violent dissent, such as “insulting” the regime, and gave them long prison sentences in sham military courts.

Curiously, however, the military focused its repression almost entirely on secular democrats: It released Islamists from prison and allowed them to operate freely. The Muslim Brotherhood, in turn, avoided criticizing the military and refused to support calls to hold it accountable for its human rights abuses.

With many of their organizers in jail, the secular democrats were ill-equipped to compete in the country’s first post-Mubarak presidential election last June. The junta, however, took no chances, barring all pro-Western secular democrats from the ballot through its appointed election commission. Morsi was elected because Egyptian voters preferred him to yet another Air Force general. But the generals denied voters plausible alternatives to military or Islamist rule.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood had been a late and halting participant in the revolution, once in power, President Morsi could have risen to the occasion and led all Egyptians into a democratic future. Instead, he entrenched the Brotherhood’s power and cemented its nascent alliance with the military.

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