Judge Sami, the deputy chief justice of Egypt's Constitutional Court, describes General Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi as a revolutionary soldier and Egypt's devout son. "In spite of the dangers and perils of this difficult choice, you made it for the sake of rescuing Egypt," Sami said to Sissi, adding that grateful Egyptians saw in him a bright tomorrow and a new birth.
Turkey is very familiar with such expressions.
A kind of political mobility that had been successful before the coup on May 27, 1960 rose during the Gezi Park incidents but it could not reach success this time as the dynamics protecting democracy are now stronger than 50 years ago. However, a similar movement in Egypt gained success on July 3, 2013. While most of the Western democracies avoided calling that movement a "coup," the majority of Turkey, including those sympathizing with the Gezi Park demonstrations over environmental and libertarian concerns, could see that it was actually a coup. This also contributed to the fact that even 1,000 people could not gather for the first anniversary protests of the Gezi incidents.
The citizens of Turkey were not shocked by the Western democracies' approach to the Egypt coup, either. It is not necessary to be an expert to understand that in Turkey, which has the second-largest army in NATO, any coup could not succeed without direct or indirect
support of the West.
In the age of national democracies, a country's democratizing its own national order does not require it to defend democracy in the international arena. Europe's contributions to improving democracy by making the world pay for it are indisputable. The linear relationship between democracy and economic progress on a national scale may often function inversely on the international scale.
It is possible to see this play out in the Egypt coup. For instance, the constitutional order developed in Egypt is nearly the same as the one that emerged with a military coup in Turkey 53 years ago. Turkey still struggles to overcome the obstacles posed by that constitutional order. The coup leader in Egypt, Sissi, was elected through a method we are already familiar with, and came to office after taking his oath in the Egypt Constitutional Court recently. This ceremony, especially the words of Judge Sami, clearly displayed a strain of politics which is very familiar to Turkish citizens.
Also, the approach and writings of Fetullah Gülen regarding the March 12, 1961, Feb. 28, 1997 and Sept. 12, 1980 coups even competes with the support the Al-Azhar Sheikh and other religious authorities gave to Sissi. However, some Western actors still want to view Gülen as a "liberal and moderate religious functionary."
It is usual for Turkey that all the members of the Egyptian Constitutional Court were assigned by Mubarak. We were also not surprised when the first democratically-elected parliament was abruptly repealed and Morsi was rendered ineffective by the assignment of the legislative prerogative and budget authorization to generals. These steps prepared a suitable atmosphere for the coup. After Sissi was elected, he was greeted as a national savior in the court, something else that was not new for Turkey.
Likewise, the Turkish Constitutional Court also cancelled all the structural reforms from the early 1970s by risking the violation of the constitution. In this way, the 1980 coup was legitimized as democratically elected political actors lost their ability to solve social, economic and political issues. Another bitter coincidence is that members of the Turkish Constitutional Court also paid a visit to the generals and expressed their loyalty to them after the coup.
Last but not least, Judge Sami's statements saying that the Egyptian revolution has erred by violating the country's constitutional traditions, and thus "a revolution against the revolution" had become necessary, reminds us that the 1960 coup was regarded as "a restoration of the Kemalist revolution against a government that lost its legitimacy due to its attitudes violating the constitutional order."
The collective memory of Turkey enabled the people to become successful in the face of coup attempts in 2013. It is vital for Egyptians to gain this experience in a shorter span of time for the democratization movements in the Islamic world.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.