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Meet Egypt’s Mr Morsi: A president without checks, balances
President Morsi's attempt to seize sweeping powers for himself has Egypt more divided than ever; the ball is now in the the opposition's hands
H.A. Hellyer , Sunday 25 Nov 2012
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The transitionary period has been, it is safe to say, mismanaged over the course of the past two years. The building blocks of a new, better Egyptian political and judicial system have not been put into place. Political polarisation has deepened and widened, and with no parliament in place. The judiciary remains as it was: a throw-back to the Mubarak era. The constitution looks set to be drafted by a constitutional assembly that is dominated by Islamists of different types, rather than a broad cross-section of Egyptian society. Most non-Islamists have now left it altogether – even if they had not, the committee does not require an absolute majority for articles to be passed, meaning Islamists could force through any articles they choose.

All of that makes the last couple of days all the more difficult to understand. Mr Mursi, in one fell swoop, issued a declaration that affected all of those different issues: the political polarisation, the judiciary, and the constitution. The constitutional assembly vested with drafting that constitution has been given two extra months to complete its task: but it has also been made immune from any legal interference. Cases that had been raised in the courts against its non-representative nature are now null and void by virtue of the declaration.

More than that, however, the judiciary has been neutered in a critical manner: Mr Mursi’s decrees may not be legally challenged, and he has immunity for any of those that he issued since the day he took office until a new parliament is put into place. The prosecutor general has been dismissed. Essentially, on the 22nd of November 2012, the Egyptian president vested the presidency with complete and total executive and legislative authority.

One may ask: and so what? After all, Mr Mursi won the presidential elections, there is no other official in the land with popular electoral legitimacy, and the judiciary is corrupt. So, why not allow him this authority, and let him do some good with it?

It is a tempting argument, and one that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) from which Mr Mursi hails is pushing hard: but it is based on two critical notions. The first is that Mr Mursi’s electoral mandate is strong enough to justify such a move. The second is that there was no other way for him to do what Egypt required.

The two notions are linked very much to the revolution. If Egyptians recognised Mr Mursi as a revolutionary president, one who commanded the support of the revolution, then he might have legitimacy to give himself powers outside of the normal legal system for a time. Yet, more than three quarters of Egyptians voted for someone other than Mr Mursi in the first round of the presidential election. In the second round, he only just barely won against a candidate who was overwhelming recognised as the candidate against the revolution – hardly an overwhelming victory providing Mr Mursi with revolutionary legitimacy.

How, then, does Egypt’s revolutionary transition move forward, if Mr Mursi does not have the mandate and the legitimacy to go outside the system? Is there no way for Mr Mursi to deal with those key problems within that system that must be addressed?

These are perhaps the wrong questions. It is not about whether there are other avenues or not. There are: Mr. Mursi could have easily created a presidential council made up of the key former presidential candidates. Mr Mursi, Hamdeen Sabahi, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Amr Moussa, accounted for the overwhelming majority of votes in the presidential election – the Egyptian public would likely welcome any consensus between them in the absence of a legislature.

The real question is, however: does Mr. Mursi, and does the MB, believe they need to get consensus on such issues, which would tackle the polarisation of Egyptian society, rather than increase it?

All of those major former presidential candidates, as well as political figures from across the board, rejected Mr Morsi’s recent move – this made little difference. Rather than try to leverage his political power to bring unity during such a difficult time, Mr Morsi appears to have chosen to further consolidate his position instead. His supporters believe that though he might have near absolute powers, he will use them benignly to Egypt’s benefit and withdraw them once a parliament and constitution are instituted. Yet, the precedent he has now instituted will outlive him and this presidency, and could come back to haunt Egypt in the years to come.

At the moment, this leaves Egypt more divided than ever. A president of absolute power, backed by a religious movement that truly believes it is doing what the overwhelming majority of Egyptians want. The opposition, while more united now than it was previously, is not in a position to drive Mr Morsi to alter course by the force of the street. Nevertheless, they continue to play an important role: even more so now for accountability’s sake, as power has become more centralised in Mr Morsi’s hands. Had they been more organised and strategic from earlier on, Egypt might not be in this situation now: they need to step up to perform the task Egypt requires.

Dr H.A. Hellyer, non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution and ISPU, previously held senior posts at Gallup and Warwick University. Follow him on Twitter @hahellyer http://www.hahellyer.com/. This article appeared previously on Al Arabiya New Channel  and is republished her with special permission of the author.





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Brian
28-11-2012 04:23am
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Mr. Morsy's decree
Upon close examination of the "protection of the revolution law" { part of this decree} it is undoubtedly a back door for another "emergency law" even more sweeping that the one of the Mubarak era... to try to understand this decree and the motives behind it, you have to ask the question " why not issue a very clear decree on specific subjects and if necessary make those subjects immune from legal challenge? Answer.. there is something to hide.!What everybody seems to have overlooked is the fact that the Parliament has actually been reinstated according to Mr. Morsy's decree { and I am sure that it will reconvene when the dust settles. Once you walk down the path of ignoring the rule of law, we become uncivilised..If a law is wrong .change it.! don't put yourself above and beyond it. I am certain that if a presidential election was held where the population were clearly told that the winner would declare himself above the law of the land, Mr. Morsy would most surely Not have been elect
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mumby
27-11-2012 08:56am
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Come together
Come together, work hard,build discipline,respect each other,respect majority decision.Avoid thuggery demonstration which adopted by leftist,who will lead your country to disarray and socialism.
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Hani booz
26-11-2012 02:31pm
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Difficult time for Egypt
Although I decided not to write any further comments because of the lack of insight to our major problems by politicians and journalist alike.I find your article stimulating but also controversial.I recall USA presidential election Al gore won the popular vote by over half a million votes But ex President George push Junior won by a split decision at the supreme court!Ralph Nader who took 2.7% of the vote spoiled it for Al gore.In 1992 Ex president George Bush Senior lost to ex President Clinton because of Ros Perot who got 18.9% of the vote! In the french election 2002 Mr.Le Pen leader of the national front caused uproar by winning16.8% in the first round. Why did the small majority vote for President Morsi? Why did 48 % vote for the old regime? Is it the fear of the future or the devil you know is better than the one you don know?Once we know the real answer to these questions we may come to term or understand what is going on.Egyptians are self centered they waked up from their
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Ruud
26-11-2012 03:42am
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Secularist
Secularist are trying to break your country into pieces.
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Nora {2}
26-11-2012 03:37am
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Stock Market Reaction
I would like to argue that the current crisis is rather manufactured, more than a real issue. Most Egyptians share pressing economic issues. I am guessing that 90% of Egyptians have no clue on the substance of Morsi’s declaration. They are constantly fed tabloid-like politics through biased media personalities. To have a real intellectual discussion on important issues, critical mass of Egyptians must have factual understanding. In the absence of that, they are easy target for manipulation. Morsi is trying to weed out the elements of the previous regime, manage the development of a new constitution, address the dire economic situation, coordinate issues with sore losers {aka former presidential candidates }, and fight back on foreign hands that is pushing us back. I do not share MB train of thoughts, but I give them credits for connecting with the society than any other groups. To provide you a quantitative value for my argument, today the stock market lost about $5B, more tha
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NORA
25-11-2012 06:12pm
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yes to Morsi
In the absence of Parliament, Mursi has every right to protect the revolution from the remnants of Mubarak who are trying to take us back to the status quo ante. The judiciary and the judges are a Nubarak tool to undo the revolution.
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khalid
25-11-2012 09:19pm
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Yes to Morsi
Egypt is the only country where Judiciary throw away an elected parliment..The only way to save the public mandate and democratic institutions from the remanats of old regime in the judiciary is what that done by President.,,How can Judiciary deprive the masses from their elected parliment..?

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