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

 

Islamist protesters, police clash in Cairo

New Israel party created amid rumours of early elections

French lawmakers to debate recognition of Palestine

Oil prices nosedive in Asia after OPEC refuses to cede ground to US shale

Well-loved Lebanese poet dies aged 102

Jordanians protest against Israel ‘Jewish’ status law

Foreign workers will get more protection in Gulf

Syria, Russia support UN in suspending Aleppo fighting

Powers to push for Iran nuclear deal before new deadline

Iraqi forces, tribesmen battle IS jihadists in Ramadi

Egypt jails 78 minors for pro-Morsi protests

OPEC meets for pivotal decision on oil output

US slams Assad regime for ‘continued slaughter’

Pope to rebuild bridges with Islamic world in Turkey visit

Regime indiscriminate strikes kill scores in Islamic State 'capital' in Syria

Putin meets with Syria Foreign Minister in Black Sea retreat of Sochi

Egypt, France agree to step up cooperation against terrorism

Britain rushes to fight terror with controversial bill

Gunmen kill 3 Egypt policemen in fresh terrorist attack

Iran lawmakers finally approve third Rouhani science minister pick

Turkey clears only suspect in alleged poisoning of former president

Huthis humiliate Al-Ahmar clan with capture of Sanaa headquarters

Christians hold out in Syria second city despite Daesh threat

Libya’s Derna emerges as new IS stronghold

Egypt to reopen Rafah border crossing Wednesday

Egypt leader begins two-day trip to France

Tribesmen blow up Yemen’s main oil pipeline

Russia trims oil output

Lebanese diva Sabah passes away

UN chief calls for halt to Libya air strikes

Syrian air strikes on Raqa kill 63 civilians

17 killed in fatal Cairo building collapse

Egypt nabs five Salafist leaders

Essebsi leads Tunisia presidential vote

Paris pushing for 'safe zones' in war-torn Syria

New air strike hits Tripoli’s sole operational airport

Pentagon chief steps down

Saudi seeks to ‘knock out’ shale oil competitors from oil market

Death toll rises from Morocco flash floods

Yemen troops free 8 hostages from Al-Qaeda

Italy hails Egypt as 'strategic partner'

US Congress skeptical of Iran nuclear talks extension

Khartoum, Darfur rebels open ceasefire talks

Time runs out for biggest chance to resolve Iran nuclear standoff

Egypt leader heads to Italy