Egypt – a legitimate coup to restore democracy?
There has been much over the weekend about the problems in Egypt, and whether deposing Mohammed Morsi was a ‘coup’. It might be useful to step away from conventional thinking and consider this problem as a possible crude template for the future. Over many years in banking I have met a number of political leaders who gained power on a specific mandate, and once in power abandoned the mandate and pursued a completely different unpopular, oppressive, suppressive, etc agenda. If we consider Egypt and look at the basis of the revolution against Mubarak the fundamental cry of the people was for a secular democracy. This cry was echoed throughout the election process which Morsi won with just a little over 50% of the popular vote. It can be argued therefore that whoever became President the new constitution must follow the lines of a secular democracy. What Morsi then produced was a constitution for an Islamist state which was rejected by the secular ministers involved who felt so strongly that this was an abuse of the mandate of the people that they refused to participate. Morsi then seized even more power to enforce his will, again against the mandate of his office. This abuse of office ultimately led to his removal from office by the army.
Democracy would suggest that such removal should be via the ballot box. But how many times in the past has the remaining term of office for such a political leader given them the space to radically change enough of the state to impose much distress and oppression to the people. Is this a flaw in our current understanding of democracy? How many times in the past would it have been in the interests of the people to have a political despot removed from office? Do we need to look at this situation and use it as basis for global discussion on a means to safeguard democracy from abuse?
A possible solution would be an International body, such as the UN, that had the power of oversight on the actions of political leaders, and have the right of intervention in the event that it was agreed that a political leader was in direct violation of the mandate of the people via the ballot box. Clearly such a body could not be other political leaders – the UN Security Council clearly demonstrates that this would not work. But we also have the International Criminal Court in The Hague which, today, only deals with after the event issues, i.e. long after many people have suffered. What about another council within the UN that comprises the heads of the judiciary from countries where there is clear independence of the judiciary from the executive – a pillar of democracy. Call it the Judicial Council of the UN. This council would have oversight of the behaviour of leaders throughout the World to ensure that clear mandates are observed and that constitutions comply with accepted basic human rights. The head of the judiciary of any state would have access to this council in the event that it was deemed that a new leader was attempting to violate either their mandate or the constitution. Such council would need the authority to suspend a government until reparations, or ultimately depose the leader. In this case what happened in Egypt would be deemed a ‘coup to restore democracy’ and thus a more accurate description, and legitimate response in the eyes of the World. I commend this view to the wider audience for comment.