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After military ouster of Egypt's Morsi, a chance to get it right

The causes for the military ouster of Egypt's elected president are what Egyptians must now address. First of all, they must develop a mutual trust for building a consensus on all of democracy's values. Tunisia serves as a good example.

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A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi holds a copy of the Quran while shouting slogans during the swearing in ceremony of the head of Egypt's Constitutional Court Adli Mansour as the nation's interim president in Cairo July 4. Adli Mansour used his inauguration to hold out an olive branch to the Brotherhood.

Reuters

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Any democracy should help define a people’s identity as well as reconcile their differences. Even established ones have difficulty with either purpose. For Egypt, its newly minted democracy failed on both. That is what triggered this week’s popular uprising that pushed the Army to oust a president, Mohammed Morsi, who was elected only a year ago.

Whether the ouster is called a coup or a protective necessity, either way the events in Cairo on Wednesday serve as a lesson on why many democracies have faltered in recent years. People are less trusting of elected leaders. They hold differing views on religion’s role in governance. And they are disillusioned over government’s ability to create jobs. And with the Internet, mass movements are better able to challenge leaders.

Egypt’s revolution in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring held the promise of creating a democracy based on political trust, religious tolerance, and economic talent. The country had two recent models in nearby Tunisia and Turkey. In both, the military has been kept in the barracks by the ability of civilian groups to trust each other enough to create a consensus over democratic essentials, such as minority rights and a clear separation of powers.

And in each, Islam-based parties have a healthy respect for the secular principles of democracy while government allows free expression of religious views in politics. This is what Columbia University scholar Alfred Stepan calls the “twin tolerations” necessary to reconcile Islam and democracy.

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