It is a measure of how bad things have gotten in Egypt when news agencies report that a growing number of Egyptians would prefer a return to military rule over their first and current freely elected government.
The unrest that led to the 2011 ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak badly crippled the country’s vital tourist industry. Foreign investment has dried up, and local investors are doing their best to get their money out of the country.
The state has long subsidized bread and fuel but it’s rapidly running out of money to continue doing so, and the economy is blighted by the accompanying ills of inflation and a black market.
Traditionally secular Egyptians are alarmed by attempts to run the country in accordance with a conservative interpretation of Islamic law and by the increasing persecution of Christians.
The uncertainty over the government’s economic direction has led the International Monetary Fund to postpone a desperately needed $4.8 billion loan.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Morsi, elected as president last June, has become increasingly authoritarian. The irony is that his sponsoring organization, the Muslim Brotherhood — which was preparing for power while outlawed from 1948 to 2011 — has proved itself inept.
Parties aligned with the Brotherhood fairly won both the presidential and parliamentary elections. New parliamentary elections were to be held starting this week, but the country’s Supreme Court upheld a suspension of those elections. The suit was brought by the political opposition, which claimed the Islamist-dominated parliament was rigging the elections to increase the Islamists’ hold on power.
The solution appealing to more and more Egyptians is for the army to take over the country, even though the 18 months of military rule between the fall of Mubarak, the former commander of the air force, and the elections were terribly unpopular. In retrospect, it apparently wasn’t as unpopular as Morsi’s government is now.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a former United Nations official who has presidential aspirations of his own, believes that if law and order continue to break down at the current rate, the army will be forced to intervene.
“But they will just come back to stabilize and then we will start all over again,” he said. That’s a common theme among Egyptians: that they should start all over again from scratch. But the Muslim Brotherhood, finally in power, is unlikely to agree to a political do-over.