Despite this lack of trust, many reformists chose to support Morsy in his campaign against Ahmed Shafiq, the former Mubarak regime stalwart, for fear of immediate authoritarian relapse. These grudging supporters were coaxed by a series of promises regarding inclusive governance, including pledges to select a diverse group of advisors and a diverse group for the country's constitutional drafting body. This gamesmanship proved decisive in Morsy's narrow electoral victory.
Those guarantees, consecrated in a formal document almost a year ago, were almost uniformly unfulfilled, setting the stage for a turbulent period of creeping authoritarianism, gross mismanagement, and deepening polarization. With limited checks and balances, Morsy sought to neuter the judiciary while beginning a concerted, and ultimately futile, effort at institutional capture of various state institutions. Most damning in this vein were the efforts to come to a modus vivendi with the Brotherhood's former torturers in the unreconstructed police, whose abusive, unaccountable practices continued. All the while, Morsy and his government were praising the police force and giving its members raises and promotions. It is disturbingly ironic that this police force is now engaged in an effort to repress the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters into acquiescence.
Legislatively, Morsy's government pushed forward restrictive legislation on various fronts, including laws impeding independent labor organizing and interfering in the operation of nongovernmental organizations. His government did little to curtail a spike in prosecutions of speech crimes, including blasphemy cases and those related to insulting the presidency. Further, the criminal justice system was corrupted and used as a political tool in the wake of the extralegal appointment of a handpicked prosecutor general.
That appointment was accomplished through Morsy's dictatorial November 2012 constitutional declaration that temporarily immunized him from any judicial oversight and set the stage for the contentious adoption of a slipshod document as the country's foundational text. For many, this was the final act in institutionalizing Egypt's political crisis. The acute polarization made even basic governance impossible and furthered the country's economic crisis -- with rapidly rising unemployment helping to activate opposition within previously quiescent sectors of society. Opposition to Morsy was no longer geographically limited or defined by class; instead it was broadly dispersed geographically, representing a wide spectrum of Egyptian society, including the urban poor and various rural constituencies.
Finally, this mushrooming discontent took to the streets in protests that exceeded in size and scope of those that toppled Mubarak in January and February 2011. The warning signs were there for all to see, except perhaps for the blithe, hubristic leaders of the Brotherhood.
While the Tamarod ("Rebel") campaign was an extraordinary feat of creativity and organization, its success was predicated primarily on the outrage and frustration building throughout Egyptian society at the increasingly authoritarian, monopolistic, and incompetent administration of Morsy. With no immediate constitutional mechanism for impeachment, millions took to the streets calling for him to go, some hoping that public pressure would force him to resign, others pushing for a military intervention.
With this resounding show of no confidence and the fragile security situation in the country on June 30, the possibility of violence was high. But at that pivotal juncture, Morsy still had options. He, and he alone, could have dialed down the rhetoric and avoided the bloodshed that was to come. Instead, his reckless nonchalance ensured that compromise solutions would not be forthcoming. So Egypt was left with the inevitable: a military ouster and a spiraling street war.
An honorable exit for Morsy would have been a recognition of reality. A crippled executive with a tenuous grip on authority who could not govern effectively -- even at the peak of his popularity -- was no longer in a position to fulfill his role. A negotiated safe exit would have also preserved the Muslim Brotherhood's political gains and ensured its participation in the design of the transitional stage and upcoming elections. Such an exit would have also reversed its disastrous decision to renege on previous pledges and contest the presidential election, thereby relieving the organization of the enormous strain of governing Egypt during this tumultuous period.
Such a decision would have required Morsy to undertake a thorough assessment of his errors and an objective appraisal of the country's current dynamics. As difficult as such steps would have been, they were Egypt's only way out. Instead, the country has chosen one poison over the other.
But in the end, no functional political order can emerge, let alone a democratic transition, without the free, fair, and full participation by the Muslim Brotherhood. With Morsy now incommunicado and presumably filled with rightful indignation at his fate, he can still help bring Egypt back from the brink. To do so, however, will require him to be a real leader and make a painful concession -- placing his country's future first.