Originally published in Al-Monitor
On July 9, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador over Ankara’s calls for UN intervention in Egypt, following the controversial ouster of President Mohammed Morsi. The sharp deterioration in the relationship between the two nations could not be more different than the warmth Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received on his visit to Cairo in September 2011. The hero’s welcome Erdogan received — which came only a few months after Egypt’s revolution against former President Hosni Mubarak — stemmed mainly from his ability to present the Egyptian public with a possible third way for politics, which was distant from the traditional fight between the generals and the Islamists. Many in Egypt viewed Erdogan as the man who stood against the military, and also offered the right balance between Islam and politics.
In post-Mubarak Egypt non-Islamist Egyptians trusted neither the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) nor the Muslim Brotherhood. The SCAF was perceived as autocrats who ruined the Egyptian transition to democracy, while the Brotherhood was viewed as an illiberal cult wanting to play a democratic game for their majoritarian domination. Erdogan, somehow, managed to convince Egyptians that he had the answer to their problem. Here he was, a Muslim and a civilian democrat who boldly told Islamists, “One must not be afraid of secularism.” Ironically, Egyptian non-Islamists are not exactly secular but they are against the domination of Islamism, and they wrongly assumed that Erdogan is their man.
Following Morsi’s election, the Turkish influence started to grow exponentially in Egypt, including more Turkish financial aid and business cooperation; the Anadolu news agency became the trusted news agency for the presidential team; and even the Turkish suits worn by Morsi. That was all well and good, but many in Egypt were hoping for more from their big sister. Turkey, with its long experience in democracy-building, could easily help Egypt in two main areas: first in the transition to democracy, particularly on how to build an inclusive, wider coalition that includes non-Islamist groups, which would ultimately help to build a solid democratic system; and second, on governance issues, and how to rebuild the country’s institutions in a way that leads to justice and accountability. Continue reading here