Last year after protests against Hosni Mubarak’s military rule, President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was installed as leader. And everyone went home. Now, a year later, anti-Morsi protestors have stormed and ransacked the Cairo headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group (while police and army stood around and watched), they have collected over 22 million signatures asking for his departure, and they are asking the Egyptian head of state to resign by 5 p.m. tomorrow.
And the military are ready to take over again.
What’s going on? Don’t Egyptian protestors know what they want?
They do. The anti-Morsi coalition seems to be an unstable mixture of those who abhor the authoritarianism of military rule but who want a secular Egypt (the military being the most powerful institution standing for secular rule), and those who want the increasing Islamicisation of the country, and even the full imposition of Sharia, but who don’t think Morsi was going fast enough.
So, somewhat like Syria, really.
And nothing like anything than can end well.
UPDATE: Robert Tracinski is more optimistic:
When Egypt had its first revolution to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, some people saw Egypt's young, educated, secular liberals marching side-by-side with the Muslim Brotherhood and thought that this was normal and natural and heartening and showed how a pious Muslim religious party could embrace democracy.
The rest of thought this couldn't possibly last.
Since Tahrir Square, it has become pretty clear what the Muslim Brotherhood thought: thanks, liberals, for making this revolution for us—but now we're taking over.
Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi's rule has become increasingly authoritarian, and at the same time he has done nothing no revive the nation's collapsing economy, to establish public order and the rule of law, or to rein in rampant corruption. Egyptians have begun to fear they're getting the same old regime, but in an even more restrictive, Islamist version.
Resistance to the Brotherhood's rule has been building up and exploded over the weekend with the "Tamarod" or "rebel" protests that brought millions into the streets.
"The scale of the demonstrations, coming just one year after crowds in Tahrir Square cheered Mr.
Morsi's inauguration, appeared to exceed even the massive street protests in the heady final days of
the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in 2011....
"Demonstrators said they were angry about the near total absence of public security, the desperate
state of the Egyptian economy and an increase in sectarian tensions. But the common denominator
across the country was the conviction that Mr. Morsi had failed to transcend his roots in the Brotherhood,
an insular Islamist group officially outlawed under Mr. Mubarak that is now considered Egypt's most
formidable political force. The scale of the protests across the country delivered a sharp rebuke to
the group's claim that its victories in Egypt's newly open parliamentary and presidential elections gave
it a mandate to speak for most Egyptians."
In effect, Egyptians are asking for a do-over on their revolution: this time, can we do it without the Brotherhood? And the answer is clearly: yes, they can.
Tom Friedman puzzles over the purpose of street protests in a democracy, where the people presumably have recourse to the ballot box. Part of the answer is that folks in Egypt (and Turkey) aren't so sure they are going to have recourse to the ballot box. They are demonstrating because they think the Islamists are going to take away their political freedom. But there is another purpose massive protests serve even in societies where the right to vote isn't in doubt: they are an opportunity for the people to make their numbers known in an unmistakable way, as a kind of shot across the bow between elections.
The massive street protests brought out such a significant portion of Egypt's population—some have calculated that it is the equivalent of 30 or 40 million people in the US—that they have undermined any claim Morsi and the Brotherhood have to claim the consent of the governed.
As a result, the Egyptian military has stepped in—with it own ulterior motives, no doubt—to issue an ultimatum for Morsi and the protesters to come to an agreement within 48 hours…. That sounds to me like the military intervening to basically push Morsi into resigning, or at least into calling a new election.
At any rate—and I am happy to say that I managed to be a little ahead of the curve on this—the Tamarod movement, along with the recent protests against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, constitute a new phase in the Arab Spring, a new revolution against religious authoritarians rather than secular ones.