Egypt: Keeping Tabs on Mursi’s Promises
By: Rana Mamdouh
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Views in Egypt differ on whether new president Mohammed Mursi can deliver what he pledged during his first 100 days, or fund his longer term plans.
On his first day as president, Mohammed Mursi ordered an immediate 15 percent increase in social bonuses for public sector wage-earners and a rise in the monthly social insurance benefits to Egypt’s poorest families from the equivalent of $33 to $50.
Important though the step is, much more will be needed to address the country’s dire social and economic conditions. The country’s new president faces a host of economic as well as political challenges.
Mursi managed to win his first political bout with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) by getting around the requirement it imposed on him, via its Supplementary Constitutional Declaration, to take his oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court rather than the dissolved People’s Assembly. He did this by first taking the oath before the protesters in Tahrir Square to emphasize that his legitimacy stems primarily from the will and approval of the people, before taking it again before the Court, and then a third time at a gathering of intellectuals at Cairo University. He even got himself a military salute from the former regime’s generals in the SCAF.
Nevertheless, Egyptians remained divided over the new president’s ability to exercise the power he has just been handed by the military. Many believe Mursi will be shackled not only by the SCAF and the Constitutional Declaration, but also by the Muslim Brotherhood and its rules. As a loyal and committed member of the group, they fear he could give its and its members’ interests precedence.
Ordinary Egyptians may have been impressed by Mursi’s Tahrir Square performance and his talk of the legitimacy of the people and suchlike. But the judgement they pass on his success or failure in running Egypt’s affairs will not be based on politics, but on how their economic and social rights are addressed. Egyptians look to Mursi to set a fair minimum wage for public sector workers, to ensure the availability of affordable food and fuel, to clear countless tons of garbage from the streets and squares, in addition to their more pressing demand for security to be restored.
Mursi has committed himself to fulfilling a range of promises within his first 100 days, which fall under the five broad headings of security, fuel, bread, cleanliness, and traffic. Although his election campaign featured a sweeping “renaissance program” for Egypt whose fruits it said would not be felt for many years, it spelled out immediate goals to be achieved in his first three months, as well as other urgent aims he pledged to achieve by the end of his first four-year term in office.
Many observers are skeptical. “It will be hard to fulfil Mursi’s economic pledges for his first 100 days, because many of these programs need funding and longer time frames,” said economist Hamdi Abdel-Azim. Other plans, such as writing off the debts of small farmers and poor families, increasing health spending, and turning large areas of desert into farmland, “will require enormous outlays. Who will bear them? It would put huge pressure on the public budget,” he said.
Others are more optimistic about Mursi’s chances of making progress in improving security and alleviating the traffic situation in his first 100 days. They note that this would require purging the security establishment of some old regime holdovers, as well as raising the morale of the police.
A group of young Egyptians have devised a novel way of judging his performance. They have launched a website, morsimeter.com, which lists 46 specific first 100 day pledges that Morsi made in his election manifesto. The aim is to tick each of them off as, when, and if they are fulfilled, and also to offer proposals as to how they might be achieved. The site’s founders told Al-Akhbar this was an attempt to devise an objective method of judging the new president’s performance.
Although he has sought to appear to have distanced himself from the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), both are doing their best to help Mursi succeed. The head of the FJP youth wing in the Cairo of suburb Giza told Al-Akhbar it has been holding meetings with other political, youth and revolutionary groups to ask for their proposals regarding the five areas the president pledged to prioritize.
On the political front, Mursi has yet to indicate how the new government he is to work with will look. Brotherhood sources said members of the group would be appointed to 30 percent of cabinet posts, the remainder going to technocrats and pro-revolution political groups.
Rumors circulated Sunday that Mursi wanted to offer the post of prime minister to Mohamed el-Baradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, who is broadly acceptable to the various political and revolutionary groups. This remained unconfirmed, however, and Baradei indicated that his acceptance or otherwise would hinge on what actual powers he would have in the job.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.