After each coup, the military promised a speedy restoration of democracy. These promises were met, but it never restored true democracy. Rather, the military installed a "tutelary democracy," in which the military set limits on political activities and positioned itself above the government with formal and informal supervisory functions. The political system, thus shaped by repeated military interventions, lost its ability to resolve problems. Political actors and parties, unable to act independently, became increasingly weak and inefficient. This in turn gave way to the rise of radical political movements, including that of Islamists.
If Egypt is now heading toward such a tutelary democracy, the Turkish story is relevant. Those who fear the "risk of democracy" in Egypt, however, may prefer this form of government. It was only in July 2012, after all, that the electorate chose an Islamist president. These people must remember, however, that Islamists suppressed by the military are likely to win the sympathy of the people, improve their political strategy, and make a stronger comeback in the next elections.
Some Western analysts (here and here) portray the Turkish military as a model for the Egyptian military. The Turkish military is regarded as the guardian of secularism and a counterbalance to the Islamists. Yet the military's activities to prevent the rise of Islamist movements have produced the opposite result. The Islamist Welfare Party won local elections in Istanbul and Ankara in 1994; by 1996 it was the largest political party under Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. The military, as the "tutelary guardian" of the system, responded to these situations in undemocratic ways. It declared political Islam as the state's principal enemy; it mobilized the media and civil society to isolate Islamists and push the Islamist-led government to step down; it briefed judges and public prosecutors about the activities of Islamic groups; and so on.
These undemocratic activities resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Erbakan and the ordered closure of the Welfare Party by the constitutional court. Yet the military's activities also sowed seeds of anger, discontent, and democratic reaction, not only among the Islamists but also among those secular democrats who defended the Islamists' right to compete in political arena.
Challenged by the military and its institutional allies within the state, particularly in the judiciary, the pro-Islamic Welfare Party reformers changed their political lexicon and established the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001. The new party transformed itself from a marginal Islamist movement into a mass political party in search of security against the assaults of military-led secularists. The AKP developed a three-part strategy: First, it adopted a language of human rights and democracy as a discursive shield. Second, it mobilized popular support as a form of democratic legitimacy. And third, it built a "democratic coalition" of modern, secular sectors both at home and abroad that recognized the AKP as a legitimate political actor.
By stressing democracy and individual rights, and thus gaining the moral high ground over its opponents by building a broader social and political front, the AKP managed to outmaneuver its secularist opponents.