Saturday, July 6, 2013

Prime Minister Erdogan and President Morsi: Winners and Losers

Mohamed Morsi, President of Egypt, was deposed by a popular upraising and military coup on July 3. He is in protective custody. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, has survived a popular upraising with the support of the police and military. Both leaders brought Islam to the fore of their administrations, and both took office when their nation’s economy was in the dumps. Why has one survived and the other been a dismal failure? The first, and most critical, is the economy. Dr. Morsi is not stupid; he has a Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Southern California, but he is either ignorant or oblivious to economics. He took a bad economy and ran it into the ground. Electricity is often non-existent. Egypt was the granary of the Roman Empire, but mow it cannot feed itself. Both economies are heavily dependent on a robust tourist industry. Tourism is now dead in Egypt, but remains a large boon for Turkey. Economic growth has averaged 5%/quarter in the 40 quarters of the Erdogan government. Turkey is now one of the financially strongest countries in Europe. Economic growth promotes electoral success. President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood pushed an Islamic agenda from the beginning of their government. The Muslim Brotherhood, after 80 years underground or in the shadows, rose to power. Exhilarated by their electoral success, intoxicated by their sudden victory, they refused to form a consensus government and instead jammed through a new anti-democratic constitution. They let previously mild sectarian violence flourish as militant Muslims have tried to drive the 9% Coptic Christian population out of Egypt while Shites and Sunnis have been killing each other in a predominately Sunni population. That has killed tourism and much of the remainder of the economy. Turkey, with a few tragic exceptions in the 20th Century, has a long history of tolerating minority religions and ethnicities. The Sultan welcomed Jews when the Spanish Inquisition was driving them out of Spain. Except for a few instances in rural Turkey, sectarian violence has been rare in modern Turkey, and certainly not in Istanbul. Prime Minister Erdogan has claimed to be of Georgian ethnicity although raised as a Turk. Egypt and Turkey both have a middle class and professional class. Ataturk encouraged the education of women, who have achieved great prominence in Turkish society. The Turkish middle class has been growing, while women are threatened in Morsi’s Egypt. The President was a not a well-honed politician while the Prime Minister was the elected Mayor of Istanbul before being elected Prime Minister. He built up Istanbul’s infrastructure and has carried through with Turkey’s. He emphasized economic development from the start of his Administration 10 years ago. Only after he won reelection two years ago with 49.83% of the vote did he start to promote his Islamic goals. The military in Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have a long history of overthrowing civilian governments. Prime Minister Erdogan reformed the Turkish military over the past decade with hundreds of military officers cashiered or imprisoned. President Morsi simply removed the very top officers when he assumed power. The generals remained loyal to Erdogan, but not to Morsi. The police under former President Hosni Mubarak used deadly force in attempting to suppress the popular demonstrations 2½ years ago with several police officials criminally prosecuted when Mubarak was ousted. The police have prudently stayed out of the current anti-Morsi demonstrations. President Morsi was doomed without either police or military support, whereas the police strongly supported Prime Minister Erdogan. Prime Minister Erdogan may still face electoral defeat in two years, but two years is an eternity in politics.

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