Mohammed Mursi: An Oath of Obedience
By: Rana Mamdouh
Published Tuesday, June 26, 2012
How the Egyptian president-elect is sworn in could indicate how far the Muslim Brotherhood is prepared to go in cutting a deal with the SCAF.
The process of moving into the presidential palace and the seat formerly occupied by Hosni Mubarak is not going to be without its battles for Mohammed Mursi.
Despite his success in winning the election run-off and defeating the candidate of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Ahmad Shafik, the president-elect has yet to face his toughest challenges.
Will he agree to be a powerless president, and take the oath of office before the Supreme Constitutional Court in line with the SCAF’s June 17 Supplementary Constitutional Declaration? Or will Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood continue – as they, along with many revolutionary forces, have been doing for the past week – invoking the legitimacy of Tahrir Square until the Declaration is revoked?
Many of the Brotherhood’s critics believe it is inclined to accept the Declaration as an immovable force. Mursi would thus take the oath before the Constitutional Court, while the Brotherhood withdraws its members from the Square, as part of a deal with the SCAF – which has only five days left to formally hand power to Egypt’s first elected civilian head of state.
While nobody yet knows how Mursi will be sworn in, Egyptians are also in the dark about what it is he will be swearing. Will he pledge to uphold a constitution that has not yet been written? Or will he vow to respect the SCAF’s first and subsequent constitutional declarations, which effectively strip him of his powers and oblige him to obey the military’s orders?
Members of Mursi’s campaign team and the Muslim Brotherhood have issued conflicting signals over this
Immediately after Mursi’s election victory was confirmed by the Supreme Election Council, his campaign said he wanted to be sworn in before parliament – even though it has been dissolved by court order.
Leading Brotherhood figure Mamdouh al-Beltagi confirmed this, stressing that Mursi “will only take the oath of office before the People’s Assembly, and not before the Supreme Constitutional Court.” Beltagi stressed that parliament should not have been dissolved as the court ruling only applied to one third of its seats, and that the SCAF “erred” when it decided to assume legislative powers itself.
Most Brotherhood supporters appear to back the view that Mursi should not give in to the SCAF’s rewriting of the constitutional rules, and accordingly insist on being sworn in at the dissolved legislature.
However, the Brotherhood’s website later quoted the acting leader of its Freedom and Justice Party, Essam al-Eryan, as saying that the choice of which body to take the oath of office before would be made by Mursi himself.
The group’s lawyer, Subhi Saleh, then offered a different take. He suggested that Mursi would indeed take the oath before the Constitutional Court, but that this would not mean that he recognizes the dissolution of the People’s Assembly or the Constitutional Declaration. It would merely be a practical way of “dealing with reality,” he said.
Saleh’s remarks seemed to vindicate skeptics who view the Brotherhood as pragmatic and self-interested political operators. Here they appeared to be rallying the revolutionary forces in Tahrir Square to oppose the Constitutional Declaration and demanding more powers for Mursi, while hinting they would defer to the new “reality” created by the SCAF.
Some analysts believe they have no other choice. “The fact is that we’ve had a ruling that the law under which members of parliament were elected is unconstitutional, which means that parliament does not exist,” said Amr Hashem of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “I imagine Mursi will take the oath before the Court, take his office from it, and then fight to get the Supplementary Declaration annulled.”
For most of the revolutionary forces, however, the idea of Mursi deferring to the Declaration in the first place is unacceptable. Tareq al-Khouli, spokesman for the April 6–Democratic Front movement, said that if Mursi takes the oath before the Constitutional Court, “that will mean our battle will once more be with the Muslim Brotherhood. It will also mean that he agrees to the judicial curbs and the dissolution of parliament.”
Khouli added: “Two things are at stake here: revolutionary legitimacy and constitutional legitimacy. The latter has been overthrown by the SCAF so it can control the country and continue militarizing the state,”
From the same perspective, some groups have demanded that Mursi take the oath in Tahrir Square.
Mursi himself has not said where he stands on the issue of the Constitutional Declaration since his election victory. The Supreme Constitutional Court’s spokesman, Judge Maher Sami, pointedly announced Monday that it had received no communication from the president’s office regarding the president-elect’s swearing-in.
Mursi meanwhile began preparing for his new job by visiting Uruba Palace, the presidential headquarters, where he was reportedly briefed on various economic and security issues by outgoing Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri. Ganzouri then formally submitted his resignation to SCAF chief Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who in turn issued a decree keeping him in office in a caretaker capacity pending the completion of consultations on the the formation of a new government.
Mursi also met with Tantawi and other SCAF members at the Ministry of Defense. Al-Ahram’s website said the president-elect expressed his profound gratitude to the SCAF for its wise handling of the transition, while Tantawi described Mursi’s elections as the first step towards democracy.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.