A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Morsi stands in front of army soldiers at Republican Guard headquarters, July 8, 2013.
Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Courtesy Reuters

To understand the swift and dramatic demise of Egypt’s first democratically elected leader and what it might portend for the country’s future, it helps to take a broad comparative perspective. The manner in which the country’s military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated Freedom and Justice Party, is by no means an isolated case. In fact, it fits rather perfectly within the model of a civil society coup, a concept I first described in a 2002 World Policy Journal essay that explained the brief removal from power of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez by a coalition of business, labor, and civic groups. Other scholars have subsequently applied the idea to other coups, such as those in the Philippines in 2001, in Ecuador in 2002, in Thailand in 2006, and in Honduras in 2009. All of these cases show that civil society coups are not the fix for democracy that they purport to

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