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

 

UN Security Council calls for Polisario pullback from Guerguerat

UK warns of ‘increased level of terrorist activity’

Merkel warns EU-Turkey ties 'severely hit' by Ankara developments

Pope Francis flies to Egypt as 'pilgrim of peace'

420 tonnes of plastic bags seized in year in Morocco since ban

Erdogan to rejoin Turkey ruling party next week

Germany urges EU not to break off Turkey accession talks

OPCW says chemical weapons allegedly used 45 times in Syria

Netanyahu slams German foreign minster as 'insensitive'

Erdogan hopes for 'new page' with US under Trump

UN envoy to Libya to visit Sudan for peace talks

Tunisian PM booed out of town hall meet

Russian spy ship sinks off Turkish coast

London police arrest ‘terror act’ knifeman by parliament

Palestinians strike in support of protesting prisoners

Two Saudi soldiers killed in rocket attack near Yemen border

German soldier plots attack under refugee disguise

Iraq forces retake town of Hatra from IS

Syria accuses Israel of strike near Damascus airport

10 dead after strikes on rebel-held hospitals in Syria

Turkey’s AKP to hold special congress readmitting Erdogan

EU reviews Libya request for naval equipment

Jail terms over death of Moroccan fishmonger

UN appoints Syrian Olympic swimmer as ambassador

Bahraini activist on hunger strike behind bars

Calls on Saudi social media for jobless protest

Tunisian coastguards no match for high-speed smugglers

US wants 'strong, democratic' Turkey: ambassador

Israeli tank trades shots with Hamas in Gaza

Syria says France 'hiding truth' about chemical attack

NATO chief warns Turkey to respect ‘rule of law’

Exiled Turkish journalist urges EU to confront Erdogan

Mass funeral for dozens slain in Syria bus attack

Qatar insists Baghdad had ‘full knowledge’ of hostage deal

UN eyes new Yemen peace talks

Erdogan resumes Gulen arrests after referendum win

Turkey opposition heads to European court to challenge referendum

Turkey says informed US, Russia prior to Kurdish strikes

Iraqi forces liberate ancient city of Hatra from IS

Saudi fire stops explosives-laden boat from Yemen

50 Syria migrants stranded on Morocco-Algeria border

Libya asks EU for patrol boats to stem migrant wave

Bangladesh approves Saudi-funded mosque project

German Chancellor regrets Israel snub of foreign minister

Global leaders call for ridding world 'forever' of chemical arms