It is regrettable to see Egypt’s first democratically elected president sitting under house arrest, hastily ousted by the country’s military leaders, even as a majority of Egyptians seem to be cheering the change. But as acceptance of a new political reality sets in, the power shift presents a chance to forge a constitution that more fairly represents the Egyptian people than the one drafted while Mohammed Morsi was president.
Many countries, Canada excepted, have danced around calling Mr. Morsi’s forced removal from office a coup, though it has the hallmarks of one: military rulers handing power to Adly Mansour as their chosen temporary president, rounding up government leaders, seizing control of state media and suspending the constitution.
But Mr. Mansour, who was head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court for all of three days before suddenly landing in the president’s chair, had been a vocal opponent of Mr. Morsi’s divisive constitution, which catered to Islamists and angered protesters whose cries for change ultimately won out with Wednesday’s coup.
In choosing Mr. Mansour and putting on hold the current constitution – drafted by members of Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Salafist supporters but ratified in a public referendum – the military’s leaders have opened a window of opportunity to give Egypt’s young democracy a stronger foundation.
Mr. Mansour is expected to pick a constitutional council, which will in turn set the terms for the next president and parliament to be elected. The council should welcome a broader consensus, giving reasonable voice to more moderate Islamists and secularists, as well as other religious and political minorities.
So, too, should any future constituent assembly that may be tasked with drafting a new constitution.
Mr. Morsi will not be returned to power. U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is “deeply concerned” with the military snatching control, but has tacitly accepted the regime change. Canada has called for calm in the coup’s aftermath, but is in no position to question the new government’s legitimacy.
World leaders want a return to democracy as soon as possible. Many Egyptians, it would seem, want leaders who include them more in the country’s new political structures, and who can deliver on promises faster than the largely ineffective Mr. Morsi, particularly on the economic front.
The surest path to all of those outcomes is a new constitutional framework that accommodates a wider array of views, better representing the vaguely defined “people’s demands” held up as the reason for kicking Mr. Morsi out in the first place.