'Aam Min Al-Ikhfaq (A Year of Failure)
by Aly El-Salmy, Osama Heikal and Lotfi Mustapha, Cairo: Sama Publishing, 2013. pp.160
By the time 'Aam Min Al-Ikhfaq was published and available on the shelves, the political arena had changed in a way the book's authors never expected. A critique of ousted president Mohamed Morsi's year in power, the book must now contend with new facts on the ground and even a new political structure. However, the work contains accusations against the deposed president, his political party and the Muslim Brotherhood that remain relevant.
'Aam Min Al-Ikhfaq's authors include Aly El-Salmy, a former minister in Essam Sharaf's government - linked to vehement supporters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), former information minister Osama Heikal, and Lotfi Mustapha.
Dating their introduction 'June 2013', the authors make no mention of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement and the role it played in Morsi's ouster, despite the fact that the campaign began its work many months before. It is quite astonishing that the group, which was the main instigator behind the collecting of over 20 million signatures requesting Morsi's resignation, receives neither explicit nor implicit reference in the book.
The book's first section tackles the "failures," according to the authors, of Morsi's only year in power, calculating some 27 major events for consideration. The second section proposes an initiative devised by the authors to stop "this fatal rush towards the Egyptian state's collapse, and a desire to save the country from general deterioration."
As for the "failures" mentioned in the book, the authors contend that Morsi, his party and his group embraced the promotion of a disastrous "Road Map," which they consider to be the start of a downward slope. This map, they assert, was based on holding legislative elections before writing a new constitution, ostensibly, as the writers conclude, to secure an easy win for the Muslim Brotherhood - the group most prepared for immediate elections. After winning in the polls, the group was able to take control of the constitution-drafting process. With this aim, the authors suggest they formed unprincipled alliances with civil parties to serve their own objectives. They exploited million-person marches, mobilising crowds to block the Constitutional Principles Document, proposed by El-Selmy himself.
The authors claim the Brotherhood insisted on monopolising the Constituent Assembly, then granted it immunity against dissolution via a void Constitutional Declaration, finally calling on citizens to participate in a constitutional referendum before achieving societal consensus, resulting in a constitution that the writers say countered the president's promises to the people, opposition parties, and political powers.
The book goes on to assert that these failures accumulated, pointing to Morsi's silence around the Wadi Al-Natrun prison escape, with the alleged assistance of the Lebanese Hizbollah and Palestinian Hamas. They also highlight the weak Renaissance Project, which they suggest started in 1997, as an attempt to re-organise the ideas of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan El-Bana. After the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, they claim the project's shortcomings became evident and not a single clause was implemented.
The authors also position Morsi's reneging on his famous "Fairmont agreement" as a prominent failure. Without the agreement, which Morsi signed with the National Front for the Protection of the Revolution days before his election on 22 June 2012, they say he would likely have lost. Despite this, Morsi and his group went back on the agreement's six points, including: abiding by the principle of national cooperation and a uniting national project representing all of society - including women, Copts and youths; forming a cabinet and a presidential team representative of all political factions and headed by an independent national figure, and refusing the addendum to the Constitutional Declaration, which laid the foundations of a military state and usurped the president's authority.
The book's list of "failures" also includes Morsi's silence towards accusations of rigging the presidential elections to his benefit. Even when the court got involved, and issued a verdict banning four Muslim Brotherhood leaders from traveling abroad due to allegations of rigging election cards, Morsi did not hasten the investigations in order to clear his name.
Morsi's 'failures' during his year in power, the writers maintain, brought him to a state of bitter animosity with the highest judicial authority, the High Constitutional Court. This bitter contestation manifested itself when Morsi's kin besieged the court building, preventing judges from entering and obstructed the court's sessions, while the authors claim Morsi stood aside and did nothing.
The book goes on to say it became a habit of the deposed president not to abide by court verdicts, even to the point of making his decisions immune against judicial appeal and granting presidential amnesty to terrorists. Morsi also made three constitutional declarations and protected them against appeal from any authority; in what the writers claim was a legal and constitutional scandal. In general, the author's argue Morsi's rule was characterised by a transcending of power and an encroachment on the judiciary.
In addition to writing about the alleged 'failures' of Morsi's year, the authors present an initiative "to the Egyptian people with all its factions, parties, political and societal powers." While the initiative is rather outdated, since the president's removal, there is nevertheless common ground between what the authors presented and what actually took place.
The initiative is based on the necessity of holding early presidential elections. Such a goal, the authors contend, requires that the armed forces engage with its "constitutional responsibility" to intervene to save the state, forming a civil presidential council to administer the country until elections are held within a year.
With the exception of this contentious point, i.e. the formation of a civil presidential council, there are many common elements between the solution presented by the book and how history actually unfolded. Indeed, the dissolving of the Shura Council, the formation of a national unity government, and the annulment of Morsi's general prosecutorial appointment all find resonance within 'Aam Min Al-Ikhfaq.
Finally, it is important to consider that the 'failures' noted in the book are based on the reactions of the authors to news. As high officials, they consider success and failure from the perspective of "what should have been done" based on their own experiences, not necessarily through the documentation of facts.