JULY 4, 2013
Egyptians cheer and wave national flags as airplanes fly past Tahrir Square, trailing smoke in the colors of the national flag on July 4 in Cairo.
Egypt's Tamarod movement succeeded in its attempt to pressure the Egyptian military to expel former President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government from office. Now the question is whether Tamarod and the other elements of the former opposition can avoid the kind of fragmentation and divisive infighting that played a significant role in catapulting the Muslim Brotherhood to power in the first place. There are many challenges to overcome, not the least of which is that the military ultimately holds the keys to power -- something the Muslim Brotherhood learned the hard way July 3. Going forward, it will be difficult for the disparate blend of liberal, secular and Islamist parties united in their shared desire to see Morsi deposed to maintain their cohesion.
The Tamarod movement declared its existence and demands on May 1, and a little more than two months later it had gathered enough momentum to play a critical role in Egypt's military coup. The military essentially fulfilled all of Tamarod's demands -- besides removing Morsi from office, the Islamist-dominated Shura Council has been dissolved, the constitution has been suspended and the head of the Supreme Court, Adly Mansour, has been installed as Egypt's interim president.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Shortcomings
Tamarod's meteoric rise was enabled in part by the failures of the Morsi government, and in part by structural problems that will plague Morsi's successor as much as they troubled the previous government. The Morsi government was never able to secure the loyalty of the country's police and Central Security Forces. In March, police and security officials held widespread strikes and sit-ins to demand better work conditions and benefits, more and higher-quality weapons and the resignation of then-Interior Minister Mansour el-Essawy. Because of these strikes, the military was called on at times to act in the police's stead, a fact that severely undermined the government's credibility in the eyes of the military. Morsi's inability to establish independent command of police and security forces away from the military, combined with deteriorating economic conditions and an inability to manage the country with direct military involvement, made the Muslim Brotherhood an increasingly unpopular choice for the military to rule through.
The Muslim Brotherhood also never developed a working relationship with the Egyptian judiciary, much less asserted any kind of control over it. Many of the judges were appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak and remained loyal to entrenched interests and the military. The courts halted progress toward completing the constitution and holding new elections at every step. When Morsi tried to institute a younger mandatory retirement age, many of the judges saw it as a way to force them out of the system. And when Morsi overstepped his bounds Nov. 22 by trying to declare his actions beyond judicial review, he united the judiciary's anger with the frustration of much of the rest of Egypt's political landscape. Tamarod may have revealed itself to the world in May, but Morsi's actions helped galvanize much of the overall anger that eventually toppled him. Morsi's attempts to navigate around the limitations imposed upon him by the military and judiciary ultimately led to the sentiment that he was trying to seize power for the Muslim Brotherhood, and it was this sentiment that Tamarod was able to give voice to and ultimately upon which it capitalized.
Tamarod and Other Opposition Groups
Tamarod was not designed as a political party; on June 28 it announced the formation of its own political front (the June 30 movement), but for all intents and purposes, it has fulfilled its mission. The movement's stated desires have come to fruition, and if it wants to remain politically relevant Tamarod now will have to transform from a critical external voice to a bona fide functional political entity. However, it will be challenging to maintain its popular momentum during such a change, and it is not even clear that the movement's leaders desire a political future. One of the pivotal moments of the last few days in Egypt was when the supposed young leaders of Tamarod -- themselves former members of an opposition group known as Kefaya that was founded in 2004 to advocate political reform in the Mubarak system -- authorized Constitution Party President and National Salvation Front coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei to speak for them in negotiations with the military. At the time, the move demonstrated that the opposition was determined to maintain its cohesion and be disciplined in pursuit of its stated goals. But in the coup's aftermath, it also indicates that Tamarod has no real program or ideology of its own.