It was not a good day for for democracy in Egypt Wednesday. Not with the nation’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, being ousted in a military coup.
Morsi was a terrible leader. Backed by the Muslim Brotherhood he temporarily claimed almost dictatorial powers and locked everyone but his Islamist allies out of the government. And he did nothing to improve the economy, which just continued to deteriorate, with food and fuel shortages, soul-crushing unemployment and surging violent crime.
Anti-Morsi protesters, who took to the streets by the millions in recent days, were adamant that he had to go. Morsi was defiant and refused to step down. Something had to give, and at least the military coup was bloodless.
The protesters were jubilant Wednesday as they reveled in what their muscle-flexing had wrought. This is the second time in as many years that protesters have succeeded in driving an Egyptian president from office. That’s quite heady for people who had been repressed horribly for decades.
But what now?
The Muslim Brotherhood, and the millions of people voted for Morsi last year, played by the rules of democracy and won. Now the parliament they controlled has been disbanded by the courts, the president who won a majority of the vote has been prematurely dumped, and the constitution his supporters favored has been torn up.
The military is powerful and widely trusted and has called for new elections. But the majority that elected Morsi -- and has now had control of the government ripped from its hands -- may not take that latest turn of events quietly. They also massed in the streets Wednesday, in separate rallies.
And the military, which took over after Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February 2011, and peacefully relinquished control 16 months later when Morsi was elected, may not be inclined to hand over the reins so willingly again.
Democracy isn’t easy, but the Egyptian people should give it another try. Ultimately, the juice is worth the squeeze.