Morsi’s dilemma

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Na­j­mud­din A Shaikh

WHEN Mo­hamed Morsi first took of­fice as pres­i­dent of Egypt, af­ter a nar­row win he was de­ri­sively re­ferred to as the “spare tyre” be­cause he be­came the Mus­lim Brother­hood’s can­di­date only when its leader was dis­qual­i­fied.

It was said he had no in­de­pen­dent base and none of the ex­pe­ri­ence needed to nav­i­gate the dan­ger­ous shoals of the pol­i­tics of a newly emerg­ing demo­cratic or­der. Be­ly­ing his crit­ics, he proved him­self to be an adroit politi­cian us­ing the de­ba­cle of the Egyp­tian army’s fail­ures in the Si­nai penin­sula as a lever, in Au­gust this year, to dis­miss the lead­er­ship of the armed forces.

He also re­scinded the laws that the Supreme Com­mand of the Armed Forces had en­acted to give the armed forces au­ton­omy and a strong say in de­ter­min­ing the po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion when they took the reins of power af­ter Mubarak.

His Mus­lim Brother­hood back­ground not­with­stand­ing, he showed great po­lit­i­cal acu­men. He al­layed US con­cerns about the di­rec­tion a new Egypt would take on is­sues of such po­lit­i­cal im­por­tance to the su­per­power and big­gest aid donor as the Is­raelE­gypt treaty, the Syr­ian sit­u­a­tion and ties with Iran. Per­haps the mea­sure that won him the most plau­dits was the role he played in suc­cess­fully bring­ing about a cease­fire in Gaza re­sult­ing at the very least in a pause in the ap­palling de­struc­tion that had been vis­ited upon the peo­ple of Gaza.

One in­di­ca­tor of his po­lit­i­cal acu­men was the con­clu­sion of an agree­ment with the IMF for a $4.8bn loan, which was an­nounced a few days be­fore the Gaza cri­sis. This was meant to be the IMF con­tri­bu­tion to the huge aid package of $14.5bn be­ing put to­gether un­der IMF and US aus­pices with the Euro­pean Union, Qatar and Saudi Arabia the other donors. The IMF loan is to be ap­proved at its meet­ing on Dec 9. Con­tri­bu­tions from the oth­ers re­main at a dis­cus­sion stage.

In the mean­while, an in­ter­nal cri­sis had been brew­ing. Mem­bers from Is­lamist par­ties dom­i­nated the 100-mem­ber con­stituent as­sem­bly put to­gether by Morsi to frame a new con­sti­tu­tion.

Op­po­si­tion mem­bers of the as­sem­bly protested with wide me­dia cov­er­age the in­ser­tion of clauses they be­lieved would make Egypt a theoc­racy. But they could not have their views re­flected in the doc­u­ment to be com­pleted by Dec 10. Many op­po­si­tion mem­bers sus­pended their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the as­sem­bly, as did mem­bers be­long­ing to the Cop­tic mi­nor­ity.

A num­ber of ad­vis­ers submitted their res­ig­na­tions claim­ing that their views were not be­ing heard. There was a very real fear that the con­sti­tu­tional court would dis­solve the as­sem­bly just as it had the lower house of par­lia­ment. This was a cri­sis that had to be re­solved.

Some ob­servers be­lieve that hav­ing achieved success in Gaza, Morsi be­came con­fi­dent he could re­solve the on­go­ing in­ter­nal cri­sis by as­sum­ing dra­co­nian pow­ers at a time when in the ab­sence of a lower house of par­lia­ment he had both ex­ec­u­tive and leg­isla­tive pow­ers.

He de­creed that no power could dis­solve the con­stituent as­sem­bly and ex­tended its term to Fe­bru­ary 2013. In a se­ries of other de­crees, he put his de­ci­sions since as­sum­ing of­fice be­yond ju­di­cial re­view, dis­missed the pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor and de­creed that there would be a re­trial of the mil­i­tary and civil of­fi­cers who had been ac­quit­ted of the charge of at­tack­ing pro­test­ers dur­ing the Mubarak era.

He ap­pears to have mis­cal­cu­lated the re­sults. Demon­stra­tions have been held all over the coun­try. While the crowds in Tahrir Square have not come close to match­ing the num­bers that par­tic­i­pated in the anti-Mubarak protests they were large enough to show that the op­po­si­tion’s strength was sub­stan­tial.

Fol­low­ing th­ese protests and the de­ci­sion of the Judges Club to sus­pend the work of the courts un­til the de­cree is re­scinded, Morsi has held meet­ings with the judges and sought to as­sure them that he would not mis­use the pow­ers he has as­sumed and that, as de­sired by the Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil, the de­cree with re­spect to the courts would ap­ply only to “sov­er­eign mat­ters”. The judges had not been per­suaded at the time of writ­ing.

The op­po­si­tion in Egypt is split but the cur­rent cri­sis ap­pears to have brought to­gether such strange bed­fel­lows as the ‘Mubarak rem­nants’, the lib­er­als and the mi­nori­ties.

Many of them would sup­port Morsi’s de­ci­sion to re-pros­e­cute Mubarak of­fi­cials that the Mubarak-era pros­e­cu­tor and judges

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