Democracy and the noble role of the military
by : Sampe L. Purba
Civilization in modern Egypt was established upon an ideology based on nationalism and secularism that separates the state from religious affairs, tolerance, a merit system and a non-discriminatory system.
Radical movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood (IM), which emerged in 1928, were prohibited, but later joined the wave of democratization known as the Arab Spring then caused widespread public dissent with the government that forced president Mubarak, a personifi cation and alter ego of the military regime, to fall from grace.
On June 24, 2012, Mohamed Mursi from the Justice and Freedom Party, a political affi liation of IM, beat ex-prime minister Ahmed Safi q in two critical run-offs. Mursi’s victory meant the silent majority, who voted for Mursi, expected their interests, aspirations and political views to be taken into consideration and accommodated.
In the early stage of Mursi’s term, the new regime failed to protect all the people. Violence, murder, sectarianism and threats to people’s lives, property and freedom of religion occurred across the country.
President Mursi, for example, issued on Nov. 22, 2012 a decree stating that the new constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly could be challenged and rejected. In the new draft, the nationalism ideology was changed into a somewhat ideology based on religion.
Prior to this, the Constituent Assembly had been denounced and dissolved for not representing all views and political platforms of Egypt.
The move by Mursi to convene the assembly, according to the Constitutional Court, was unconstitutional. The presidential decree he issued received widespread opposition, even igniting acts of violence across Egypt.
Mohammad Elbadarei, a prominent modern leader who has an international reputation and a lot of followers, said the decree had allowed the president to centralize the entire authority of the state and crown himself a new Pharaoh of Egypt.
The fall of Mursi can be seen from the regional strategic point of view related to Egypt’s control of the Nile. Egypt has been facing a challenge from upstream countries of the Nile, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, etc. There are 10 countries dissected by the Nile. They set up a consultation forum called Nile River Basin Commission.
Egypt depends much on the Nile for its main power source, agriculture, irrigation and water supply through the giant Aswan dam. For Egypt, the threat to the Nile is a threat to its existence and there is no room for compromise. It is more serious than the threat to the Suez Canal for instance.
The Ethiopian government intends to build a dam upstream from Nile, which Egypt fears will have a severe impact on its country.
Ethiopia has stated it is no longer bound by the past agreement it signed with the British colonial government of Egypt, therefore, last May the Egyptian president visited Uganda and will also go to Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo for consolidation.
President Mursi , who had voiced strong objection to Ethiopia’s plan, softened his stand by allowing other countries to take advantage of the Nile provided that it was discussed and agreed in advance. The change was, of course, intolerable and deemed a national threat.
In general, the military in developing countries, which has historical value and a signifi cant share in the rescue and independence of the state, can submit itself to civilian supremacy.
However, the supremacy of civilians over the military is not without reservation and taken for granted. The military would be tempted to take over the civilian government under three conditions.
First, if the civilian government is weak in public administration and maintenance of law and order. Second, if the military’s interest is threatened or politicized, such as in the selection of military commander, procurement of defense equipment and so on.
Third, if the military considers — backed by assessment of intellectuals — there is a challenge to national ideology that may pose a threat to the existence and sovereignty of the nation.
Indonesia needs to take lessons from the Egyptian case. The relatively successful political transition and military reform in Indonesia as a resultant of Reformasi 1998 has to be cautiously strengthened and maintained by the political elites, intellectuals and civil society.
Extreme political noise will not contribute to any consolidation of democracy here. After all, democracy is not the goal, but a means to achieve the goal using instruments like elections, political parties and so on.
The goal of the state is to reach prosperity, justice, security and civil freedom, as well as upholding the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.
When the destiny of the nation is at stake, the military, under the morality of patriotism and historical call and noble responsibility, will interfere to save the country. That phenomenon is currently taking place in Egypt.
Democracy and the noble role of the military
Published in Jakartapost , Jakarta | Fri, 07/12/2013 10:42 AM | Opinion
The writer is a National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) batch 49 participant. The views expressed are personal