While Western media searches for signs of a developing democracy in the Egyptian revolution, the Russian press says nothing good can come of it.

International media outlets are puzzled about predicting consequences of the Egyptian unrest. Photo: Reuters

The deteriorating situation in Egypt, where military leaders have ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and suspended the Constitution, continues grabbing headlines across the globe.

While Russian journalists paint the situation in dark colors and are pessimistic about the future of the country, Western media struggles to find the right words to explain exactly what has happened.

Military coup – a catalyst for democracy?

The U.S. media are looking for an answer to the paradoxical question: “Can a military coup in a country serve the cause of democracy?” There is no shortage of commentators who believe that, with regard to Egypt, it most certainly can.

“The case that this was bad for democracy is pretty straightforward: Although the military may have been spurred on by mass protests calling for it to intervene and Morsi’s government had been decreasingly democratic, the military cancelled the Constitution, circumvented the country’s legal system, imposed its will on the nation and set a precedent that its authority can supersede not just a president, but the will of the people who voted him into office,” The Washington Post reported.

At the same time, the newspaper believes that the coup may ultimately serve to further Egyptian democracy, but humanity will only be able to judge that from a historical perspective after a number of years have passed.

“The most common theory currently being discussed, though perhaps the most problematic, is that the military was merely enforcing the will of the people and safeguarding democracy from its real opponent, who, in this thinking, was Morsi. Democracy, after all, is about much more than just whether or not a leader was democratically elected. Morsi’s government appeared to be rapidly accumulating its own power; many critics saw it as becoming authoritarian,” the paper observed.

The Wall Street Journal was more cautious in its assessment of the situation, although it acknowledged the fact that the military coup prevented the country from slipping into an abyss.

“The latest military coup in Egypt stops a slide into one abyss, but is hardly a guarantee that it will avoid a future one. A better future will depend on the wisdom of the kind of generals who have not proven to be very wise in the past,” the article read.

The Daily Beast used more emotional language in its evaluation of the events in Egypt, calling what has happened a “coup” but at the same time a “continuation” of the revolution triggered by the Egyptians’ desire for freedom.

“Yes, it was a coup. But the Egyptians are striving for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness just like America did in 1776,” the article read.

According to the article, the people have the right to depose a government that they do not agree with.

“If a regime loses that consent, as President Mohamed Morsi’s government clearly did, then the people have the right to alter it or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. That is, in essence, what the military and the millions of demonstrators in Egypt say they are doing. Their coup (you and I need not mince our words) is an attempt to reset Egypt’s revolution so it can better serve those fundamental goals of liberty and consent,” the author of the article noted.

Questioning the United States’ role in the upheaval

A large part of American media coverage has focused on that country’s role in the events in Egypt. This is quite the opposite of what is happening in Russia. U.S. journalists are wondering whether the Barack Obama administration could have smoothed the way for a peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt. Some even go so far as to accuse Washington of refusing to act and of inconsistency, while others recognize that the United States’ influence in Egypt is simply not strong enough.

“America can also do more than it has. The Obama Administration has been caught trailing events at every turn, supporting Mubarak before abruptly throwing him over, and then embracing Morsi despite his authoritarian turn. President Obama stayed quiet throughout the latest crisis,” The Wall Street Journal noted.

According to the article, Washington can also do more to help Egypt gain access to markets, international loans and investment capital.

“The United States now has a second chance to use its leverage to shape a better outcome,” the article stated.

The New York Timesbelieves that Washington’s attempts to build friendly relations with Morsi’s government created the impression that the United States is flirting with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood organization.

“The Obama administration has not handled this situation particularly well. It has shown undue deference to a self-negating democratic process. The American Ambassador to Cairo Anne Patterson has done what ambassadors tend to do: she tried to build relationships with whoever is in power. This created the appearance that she is subservient to the Brotherhood. It alienated the Egyptian masses,” the newspaper said.

According to the author of the article, the United States has no ability to influence political events in Egypt in any important way.

Does Egypt have a future?

Russian media outlets remain pessimistic about the events in Egypt, often resorting to using such words as “fever,” “crossing the line,” “chaos” and “collapse.”

Newspaper headlines paint a dire picture: “Egypt on fire” (Komsomolskaya Pravda), “No end to the revolution” (Moskovsky Komsomolets), “Egypt once again in a state of transition” (Kommersant), “It may be scorching in Egypt, but things are about to get hotter” (Trud), “The revolution has turned into chaos” (Expert).

“The line has been crossed. They’ve learned how to shoot each other in Egypt, and now they’ve got a taste for it. Weapons from that madman [Muammar] Gadaffi’s army are funnelling through the leaky desert border, gradually making their way toward Sinai and the tunnels that lead to the Gaza Strip, coming to a standstill on the road and restocking Egyptian soldiers,” Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

According to the newspaper, the window of opportunity for the country that had received an injection of Islamism and purged itself of the services of the Muslim Brotherhood is in danger of slamming shut.

Unlike most American observers in the media, Expert magazine believes that the very fact of a military coup in Egypt has stripped the country of its last chance to establish a legitimate democratic government capable of making important political decisions.

“And no matter who wins the battle between the Egyptian Islamists and Secularists, the country is heading toward an economic collapse in the near future,” the magazine said.

In an article entitled “Egypt has gone wild,” the magazine Ogonyok noted that nobody knows what the new order will be like, or if indeed there will even be a new order.

“It will be interesting to see who the Egyptians would like to see at the helm: an Islamist, a democratic leader or some kind of compromise between the two. But the elections are a long way off – the voice of the people on the squares has not been hushed yet,” the article reads.

Kommersant noted that Egypt is in danger of ending up with a military dictatorship and crumbling financially.

“A day after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist regime, the country entered its second transitional period in the space of three years,” the paper said. “Experts still believe that the most probable scenario is the establishment of a military dictatorship.”

Izvestiastressed the hopelessness of the situation in Egypt: “Mubarak is back. The revolution has failed.”

Will the Egyptian crisis affect Russian tourists?

On a more practical note, Russian media are concerned about how the situation will affect holiday resorts in Egypt, which are always very popular among Russian tourists.

“Egypt can’t seem to shake this fever: The political crisis in the country runs so deep that it is unclear whether or not the favorite place of ‘pilgrimage’ for Russian tourists will ever be peaceful again,” Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote.

The newspaper Trud said that only fools would dare go on holiday to such a tumultuous country now... fools and Russians, that is.

“The world is waiting anxiously to see how the situation will develop. And practically nothing good can come of it. Although many experts on the Arabic world are predicting that it will all lead to a full-scale civil war, Russian tourists, who are never overly perturbed by a revolution, as usual don’t see anything particularly special in what’s going on,” the article said.


Jack Goldstone: The art and science of predicting conflicts

Russian experts predict prolonged military rule in post-Morsi Egypt