Explaining Mursi’s Decisions

An anti-Mursi protester carries a sign that reads: "Go away Mursi, Egypt is too big for you. People want the fall of the regime" during a sit-in at Tahrir square to protest a decree issued by President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo 24 November 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Asmaa Waguih)

By: Abdel Rahman Youssef

Published Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Shock and amazement,” could be the phrase that best summarizes the mood of politicized Egyptians following the constitutional declaration announced by Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi last Thursday.

Nobody explained the reasons behind the declaration or its details. The president’s spokesperson read the series of decision in front of cameras, while Mursi stayed out of sight until his speech at the president’s Ittihadiya Palace on Friday.

Opponents and supporters were left to their own personal interpretations of the decisions. After Mursi’s successful management of the Gaza file following the Israeli aggression last week, it is still not clear why Mursi made such decisions, for two main reasons.

The first is that, while some decisions could be described as exceptional or revolutionary, they neglected the burning questions on the agenda of the revolution, especially after the latest clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, the avenue adjacent to Tahrir Square and witness to several deadly battles between protesters and security forces, since 25 January 2011.

The revolutionaries insist that the interior ministry should be cleansed and that its officers implicated in causing permanent injury or fatalities should be prosecuted. This is in addition to the popular demand of setting a minimum and maximum wage to achieve social justice.

The second reason causing the controversy in interpreting Mursi’s decisions is the sharp polarization of society based on ideological and political positions. Various camps became apprehensive of each other and lost mutual trust. The conspiracy theory was the only tool to explain the various positions and various sides felt they were under attack to be eliminated morally, politically, and even materially.

Besides the polarization, Mursi’s decisions could be explained in the context of several issues. He clashed with the judiciary, from the public prosecutor to the Supreme Constitutional Court. Then there were the consecutive acquittals of interior ministry officers accused of killing protesters during the January 25 revolution.

There were also the families of the victims of the Maspero – the October 2011 protests where at least 28 demonstrators were killed – who felt that their children died in vain.

Along with the special constitutional declaration, Mursi made an executive decision to appoint Justice Talat Ibrahim Abdullah as public prosecutor. Some opposed this decision, although they did not want Abdullah. But they also did not want Mursi to appoint an alternative.

But his decree was in accordance with the challenge posed by deposed prosecutor Abdul-Majid Mahmoud’s rejection of Mursi’s previous decision to appoint him as ambassador to the Vatican.

Mahmoud was supported by the members of the public prosecutor’s office, so Mursi had to make a quick decision to appoint a replacement and hand him his office in the middle of the night, to avoid the destruction of the office’s files.

The decision to provide compensation to the families of martyrs and wounded was to control the anger of the families who felt that Mursi had ignored them, after he had promised them justice. But his detractors saw it, according to their calculations, as an attempt to gain the support of one side of the revolution. They were skeptical of this step, since, by law, a retrial cannot happen without new evidence.

The decision to grant immunity from dissolution to the Shura Council and the Constituent Assembly, in addition to bolstering his previous powers, announced in constitutional declaration of 11 August, which removed the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) from power, was in the context of Mursi’s war with the Higher Constitutional Court.

The Court was scheduled to consider three lawsuits calling for the dissolution of the Shura Council, the Constituent Assembly, and its Supplementary Constitutional Declaration on 2 December 2012, which could mean the return of SCAF into power.

This would provide the military council with the authority to create a new Constituent Assembly and dissolve the Shura Council, the last remaining body chosen through popular elections. It is also the final bastion of the Islamists, who hold its majority.

There is also the possibility of a military coup if the current members of SCAF agree on the decisions or if the army gets involved between the courts and the president.

This is the fear brought by the positions of Justice Tahani al-Jebali, who had previously announced that she had prior knowledge of the court’s decision and her opposition to the president and the Muslim Brotherhood, in addition to the general stance of the court towards the presidency.

In fortifying the Constituent Assembly, it seems that Mursi believes it is being threatened following the series of withdrawals.

The decision that caused the biggest shock was the one that gave him immunity in future decisions until the election of the Popular Assembly. He gave himself the right to make exceptional decisions on vaguely-worded issues.

Some see that he has declared himself a new Pharaoh, while others believe it was a step to strengthen his hands, which were trembling against the general chaos. Yet others considered it a challenge to the constant appeals against his decisions, which are restricting his movement.

A clear explanation, regardless of intentions, will appear in the few following days. It is a question of how Mursi will deal with the growing opposition and the impending confrontation. This will explain why Mursi made the decisions, especially the second and sixth articles. Will the coming days bring him prospects to prove himself, or will the street say otherwise?

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

22, 2011 at 7:27 am)I can't help but wonder what Mahfouz would think about what's hanepnipg in Egypt today. As cheered as he would have been about the Arab Spring I think he would have known in his heart of hearts that it would end in misery. Already it is obvious that the Egyptian liberals are a spent force that will be overwhelmed by Islamist elements in Egyptian society.Although he was raised as a devout Muslim, Mahfouz was actually named after a renowned Coptic physician who delivered him. In the late 19th century when he was born, the relationship between Coptic and Islamic Egyptians was nowhere near as troubled as it is now. I have a strong suspicion that the future of the Copts in Egypt is in great peril and that before too long we are likely to see a mass emigration. I truly hope that the United States is foresightful enough to offer sanctuary to the Copts. Very close to where Professor Mead lives in Queens, on Steinway Street in Astoria, there is a large Egyptian neighborhood that would gladly welcome Copts who flee Egypt.Mahfouz survived an assassination attempt by Egyptian Islamic extremists. It is sad to think that these same extremists wearing the modestly less intolerant garb of the Muslim Brotherhood will end up as the new power brokers of an increasing impoverished and intolerant Egypt.It won't be long before liberals like Mahfouz will be even less safe in Egypt than he was.Speaking of Egypt Professor Mead says, The economy is in trouble and nobody knows how to fix it. Actually, I don't think that's true. The Egyptian economy is in trouble but it's not that no one knows how to fix it, it's that no one is willing to take the steps necessary to fix it.What a different society Egypt would be if it embraced liberal democracy, forged a real peace with Israel that included a vibrant economic relationship, accepted pluralism and reduced military expenditures. This is the type of Egyptian society that Mahfouz would have been proud of.Instead Egypt, like most of the Islamic world, chooses to meander down a path that leads to perdition.Egypt is a nation that imports a very large percentage of its caloric intake, yet it is hemorrhaging foreign reserves. How long will it be before Egypt becomes Somalia on the Nile?My guess is that from his perch in heaven, Naguib Mahfouz is weeping. But Mahfouz was an existentialist so the absurdity of what’s hanepnipg in Egypt probably wouldn’t have surprised him at all.

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