First Published: 2013-02-14

 

Egypt at Another Crossroads

 

Egypt, arguably the most important Arab state, again finds itself at a crossroads, with growing public unrest challenging the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi. Even some observers who had hopes for Morsi are alarmed, as Adil E. Shamoo notes.

 

Middle East Online

Egypt is rapidly approaching its most acute political and economic crisis since the 2011 revolution that swept dictator Hosni Mubarak from power.

Poverty is at an all-time high of 25 percent, with youth unemployment at a record 40 percent. Foreign currency reserves are on a rapid decline. President Mohamed Morsi is losing the most important commodity he possesses — the people’s confidence and trust. Conditions seem ripe for either a new uprising from below or a new military coup from above.

Instead of cementing his new regime’s democratic credentials, Morsi has undermined the legitimacy of his rule in word and deed. For example, immediately after collaborating with President Barack Obama to broker a ceasefire in Gaza last November, Morsi issued a decree giving himself sweeping powers not even enjoyed by Mubarak. If Morsi thought his usefulness to the Obama administration would persuade Washington to look the other way during his power grabs, the administration has done little to correct him.

Regime critics have held massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square and in several other cities. Although many Christians and secularists have joined the recent demonstrations, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators have been Muslims, with most of the women in Tahrir Square donning headdresses.

Yet in language often used by dictators and tyrants to slander their critics, Morsi has labeled these demonstrations the work of “infiltrators,” “thugs,” and “terrorists.” Moreover, he has unleashed the police and his supporters on the demonstrators, resulting in clashes where several have been killed and hundreds wounded. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood have engaged in violence against their Muslim brethren to prevent them from expressing their moderate and liberal views.

In light of the recent unrest, it’s increasingly difficult to overlook the illiberal currents at work in Egypt’s constitutional process. Thedrafting of the constitution was controlled mostly by the Muslim Brotherhood and some of its Islamist allies. In order to curry favor with the military leadership, they imbued the military with arguably greater powers than it enjoyed even under Mubarak.

The new constitution gives the military seven out of 15 members of the council that has the power to declare war and control the secret military budget. Among other illiberal provisions, the constitution singles out “the duties of a woman,” allows military trials of civilians under certain conditions, and fails to guarantee religious freedoms. The voters approved the new constitution by a considerable margin, but results were clouded by a boycott from opponents. The majority of urban and educated voters opposed the new constitution.

In the past, I have been very optimistic about the future of Egypt’s revolution. I continued to be optimistic when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power through free and democratic elections. I overlooked some of the more inartful statements and acts by Brotherhood leaders as part of the democratic struggle on the bumpy road to full democracy. With some exceptions, Egyptians seemed to agree.

But now Morsi has to prove himself worthy of that trust. He must push the next parliament into amending the constitution to give complete and equal freedom to Egyptians regardless of gender or religion, reduce the number of military members in the national defense council, and bring the military budget under the auspices of the parliament. Morsi should take steps to ensure the safety and full participation of the country’s nearly 15 million Coptic Christians, and he must stop harassing opposition media and non-profit organizations.

Morsi still has an opportunity to become a historic leader for the people of Egypt and the Arab world. But to do it, he’ll have to free himself from Mubarak’s dark shadow and start acting like the president of all Egyptians.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth – When Humanity Will Have Peace. He can be reached at ashamoo@som.umaryland.edu.

Consortiumnews

 

US criticises Shiite name of Iraqi military operation

Libya PM survives assassination attempt

Syrian refugees ignored at Turkey poll campaign

Israel warplanes strike Gaza after rocket attack

Director 'shocked' at Morocco’s prostitution film ban

Hamas accused of committing war crimes against civilians

German court rejects Yemenis' case over US drone killings

Kuwait emir urges Muslim states to fight extremism

NY Times journalist has Turkish citizenship revoked

Military site inspections necessary to Iran deal

Iraqi forces on outskirts of Ramadi

Pro-government fighters retake Yemen city from Shiite rebels

Libya militias trap civilians in Benghazi

EU border agency plans to expand migrant rescue operation

Syria state TV blames ‘foreign enemies’ for signal jamming

Palestinians and jihadists clash in Yarmouk

Iraq refugees forced back into conflict zones

Kuwait restores Islamist lawmaker's citizenship

Washington Post reporter goes on trial behind closed doors in Iran

Iraq launches operation to drive ‘Islamic State’ from Anbar

New airport in restive eastern Turkey

Iran ‘thwarts’ US cyber attack on Oil Ministry’

Egypt opens border crossing with Gaza for 48 hours

Litany of problems keep Iraqi army weak and ineffective

Rouhani: most Iranians favour peace

Iran Foreign Minister discusses Yemen conflict in neutral Oman

Palestinians dismiss Netanyahu initiative

Three Moroccans jailed for homosexuality

Oxfam: 16 million Yemenis have no access to clean water

US, Iraq at loggerheads over Ramadi

Soldier kills comrades in Tunisia barracks shooting

Netanyahu names rightist ally as new Foreign Ministry chief

Iraq rejects US criticism of security forces over defeat in Ramadi

Hezbollah captures hilltops from Qaeda wing in Syria

Saudi Shiites hold mass funeral for victims of mosque bombing

Sudan targets newspapers in major media crackdown

Iran looks forward to total lifting of sanctions

Syria regime launches air raids around Palmyra

Hezbollah urges broad support for ‘existential battle’ in Syria

Fierce fighting rocks Yemen as peace hopes fade out

Olmert sentenced to eight months for corruption

Nobel Prize-winning John Nash killed in car crash

Fukushima nuclear plant wins Qatar contract

Blow to Yemen peace efforts as UN conference postponed

US accuses Iraq forces lacking will to fight IS