Who said we have a military coup?! We don’t have coups; we have a country of institutions that punishes anybody who defies democratic legitimacy, even if it was a democratic President.” This was scribbled by Thawra Thawra in a recent blog.  This was, undoubtedly, an expression of sheer exuberance in the face of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi government`s ouster on July 3. The army precipitated the ultimate showdown. Morsi stood defiant, but, in the end, willing to take the opposition on board for holding the parliamentary elections. Things moved with lightning speed and only one year after becoming the President of an important Middle Eastern country, he succumbed to the raw power of an army whose chief was a handpicked General, Fatah Abdul Khalil al-Sisi.

Further, Thawra talks about the institutions that punish the ones defying democratic legitimacy. If you have in mind the Western democracies that have strengthened their governance apparatus over the years, it could be true. But the fact is that institutions in Egypt are still in their embryonic stage after the demise of Hosni Mubarak`s 30-year-long dictatorial rule. The army, the judiciary and the legislative power, all had yet to learn to live together. The post-Mubarak turmoil was still brewing with all its fury. The people`s expectations were running high, inflation eating up everyone`s fast declining earnings and unemployment reaching 13.2 percent. These were critical moments and Morsi could not afford to look the other way. Yet, he was on a different trajectory. He misplaced his priorities, decreeing at the outset an uncalled for addition to his presidential powers and, that too, beyond the judicial review.

There was a loud outcry against his measures by the opposing groups, who feared it was a throwback to the Mubarak era that was destined to usurp their hard won freedoms in a democratic setup. In addition, he instituted and hurriedly enforced an Islamist constitution towards the end of last year, and, that too, unilaterally, compounded the matters further.

Opposition protests ensued these continued for six-long months. It is in this backdrop that the concept of “democratic legitimacy” strikingly appears to be relevant .A common perception is that a political party, or political structure, gets legitimacy once it goes through a democratic process.

In political connotations, if a leader of a political party is sworn in as a President or Prime Minister after he is returned to power through a popularly held free, fair and transparent election, the democratic legitimacy is considered to be bestowed upon him, for his entire term. That unfortunately, is a misconception.

The dynamics of modern politics have gone far beyond this conceptual framework. It is not just the dictates of realpolitik that have a fundamental sway in the modern polity, but it is the continuing drags of keeping and protecting the nuances of legitimacy around which is actually built a façade of a stabilised democratic dispensation.

Morsi knew he enjoyed the backing of 51.7 percent of popular vote in contrast to his opponent Air Marshal Ahmed Shafik`s 48.3 percent. This was a narrow margin. Shafik represented a broad spectrum of the political divide - secular, religious, minority, labour, students and women. All clubbed together, they were euphemistically labelled as liberals as opposed to the Islamist followers of Muslim Brotherhood.

On the hindsight, it was an indistinguishable mix of Muslim Brotherhood and the broad spectrum of liberals that were pounding in unison on the creaking Mubarak regime at the Tahrir Square in 2011. Morsi also forgot the overflowing power of the Egyptian Armed Forces (SCAF), which ultimately stamped out the Mubarak rule, helped  arrange the presidential and parliamentary elections and facilitated the installation of his government. It would be stating the obvious to reiterate the role of Muslim Brotherhood in so effectively leading the popular revolution and the army, loyally submitting to its political prowess.

The major lapse, however, was overlooking the narrow contours of the electoral mandate given to the Justice and Development Party (J&DP). It should have seen its space to manoeuvre and, concurrently, could have broadened its appeal to a larger electorate. The movement of Tamarod would have never occurred if the demands of the opposition were given due consideration.

On July 3, however, it was too late. The strategy of building up the country first before looking straight into the eyes of other powerful state institutions, as was done by the leadership in Turkey, could also have been emulated here. The democratic legitimacy does not end with the victory in the elections and, thereafter, donning the presidential robes; it starts from there, but never ends.

The writer is a formerly MD PTV and President IRS.