Morsi's first 100 days: The balance sheet
Salma Shukrallah , Monday 8 Oct 2012
Ahram Online looks at key events during initial three months of Mohamed Morsi's rule; supporters and critics battle over whether Egypt's new president met his promises


The 100 days President Mohamed Morsi set aside to complete his five-point presidential program comes to an end on Monday after an eventful few months.

The Egyptian head of state promised to address Egypt's most pressing issues including its traffic problem, accumulated garbage, fuel and bread shortages and the security vacuum, in less than four months.

"There has been a lot of progress in at least four of these files. People only focus on the negatives," claimed Ahmed Oqeil, Cairo spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Oqeil is also a member of the National Front for the Protection of the Revolution (NFPR), a coalition which includes non-Islamists and members of the Brotherhood, launched days before Morsi's presidential win to rally support for the Brotherhood candidate.

Ahmed Imam, another member of the NFPR who voted for Morsi in the presidential runoff with former regime member Ahmed Shafiq, dismissed the five presidential promises as "only electoral slogans which were unattainable in 100 days."

Rather it was more important, he said, to focus on Morsi's failure to use the "historic revolutionary moment to change Egypt’s approach to its economy."

"Instead of forging economic policies in favour of the poor by setting a minimum and maximum wage, forcing progressive taxation and renationalising the country’s robbed companies, [Morsi] chose to side with the rich and follow the same path as the old ruling party in depending on loans," Imam opined, referring to the controversial $4.8 billion sum from the International Monetary Fund that Morsi's administration is currently negotiating.

Oqeil, however, argued that although there are several pending issues that Morsi promised to resolve, he had made headway with regards to social issues during the last three months.

"Morsi, for example, gave students the option to finish high school in two years rather than three, lessening the financial burden on the students’ families," he asserted.

In addition, there were "more important revolutionary demands" which Morsi had successfully fulfilled since assuming office.

End of military dominance

On 12 August, Morsi surprised the nation when he canceled the military-authored 17 June addendum to the 30 March 2011 Constitutional Declaration and transferred full executive and legislative authority from the military council to the presidential seat.

He then forcibly retired the head of the SCAF and minister of defence Hussein Tantawi as well as the armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan.

Morsi had, commentators said at the time, successfully bought an end to the military regime.

Oqeil added that the president had also largely ended the much-condemned practice of trying civilians in military courts.

Morsi formed a committee to follow up cases where civilians have faced army judges, in response to activists' demands that all those tried in the infamous courts be released and retried in civilian courtrooms.

Only a few cases remain, Oqeil asserted, which is one of the many achievements of the committee.

No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign activist Mona Seif, who has spent the last 18 months campaigning against the practice, argues that although there has been some progress, Morsi's committee has overlooked two key issues.

"One problem is the criteria set by the committee to release those who faced military trials," she explained, "it prioritised the release of activists but not children, which means that up until now there are still minors in prisons facing no clear charges.

"The other biggest issue is that the law that allows the military to prosecute civilians has not been cancelled and consequently, although it is occurring on a much smaller scale, civilians are still being arrested and tried in front of these courts."

Free speech debate

EIPR's Bahgat pointed out that other rights continue to be compromised, in particular freedom of expression.

"The EIPR has been working closely with journalists facing accusations of insulting the president. These law suits were mostly filed by FJP members," said Bahgat.

However Bahgat recognised that in response, Morsi had issued a law banning the detention of journalists pending investigation.

The legal complaints stopped shortly after the legislation was passed, Bahgat admitted, adding that he had heard that the president had contacted his former party asking them to stop raising cases against journalists.

Nevertheless, some continue to face charges.

During Morsi's 100 days, there has also been a significant increase in individuals accused of "contempt of religion," much to the alarm of free speech defenders.

Last month, Coptic Christian schoolteacher Bishoy Kamel was sentenced to six years in prison for posting cartoons on Facebook deemed defamatory to Islam, the Prophet Mohamed, President Morsi and Morsi's family.

Another case which sparked national and international uproar last week was the detention of two Coptic children charged with insulting Islam. The nine and ten year olds, who allegedly tore up verses of the Quran, were shortly released pending investigation.

Controversy over police return

Oqeil, for his side, asserts that since the "100 days" kicked off on 2 July, there has been an increase in security presence on Egypt's streets, after the police ostensibly disappeared following last year's 18-day uprising.

This is one of Morsi's main achievements, Oqeil concluded, claiming that the security vacuum that Egypt had suffered from has been filed and that crime has decreased.

This has had a positive knock on effect, Oqeil continued. More traffic police, he explained, facilitated traffic flow and increased security presence has ensured a greater state control on sales of subsided fuel on the black market, which had contributed to the fuel crisis.

"While Egyptians used to experience recurrent fuel shortages across the nation, now shortages are witnessed less frequently and only in localised areas not nationwide," the FJP spokesman maintained.

Some Egyptian rights activists, however, challenge Oqeil's glowing report on the security situation during the first three months of Morsi's rule.

Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) complained that the return of the police had conversely increased instances of citizen rights violations.

"Morsi and his government still adopt the view that if they reform the police institution [as rights groups have been demanding] they will not be able to regain control of the security situation, a view which we completely reject," Bahgat said.

According to an EIPR investigation due to be released next week, Bahgat asserted, "the level of torture witnessed at the hands of police in the past month and a half is equivalent to that witnessed in the past 18 months."

Rights activist Aida Seif El-Dawla of the Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence agreed, adding that over the course of the last few months the increase in police presence has contributed to the levels of violence during instances of social unrest.

Student sit-ins have been violently dispersed, the rights advocate continued, for example when a month-long Nile University protest was forcefully evacuated by Central Security Forces (CSF) three weeks ago.

Workers' strikes were similarly attacked using "old [regime] tactics" such as police cooperating with the business owners' hired private security, Seif El-Dawla added.

An increase in employees taking industrial action has been one of the most significant developments during the last 100 days.

Since early July, transport workers, doctors and teachers have all staged intermittent strikes and protests against low pay and deteriorating living standards.

Tahsin, a remote delta village, went as far as to declare independence from the Daqahliya governorate last week and launched a campaign of civil disobedience, complaining it had received no state services in decades.

"Most likely, Morsi does not want police behaviour to change, as his policies will not solve the country's continuing social and economic problems," argued Seif El-Dawla, hinting that the government needed heavy-handed police tactics to control public unrest.

In addition to reports of violent police behaviour, Egypt's military and police forces launched a series of "anti-terrorist" raids in the North Sinai region, including airstrikes on the population of the peninsula, which raised the alarm of rights activists.

Seif El-Dawla described the attacks as another example of the increase in brutality under Morsi's rule, comparing the raids in Sinai to those carried out by the Mubarak regime in the 1990s during his so-called "fight against terrorism."

"No clear estimates have been made revealed as to how many or who has died in these raids. We are yet to learn what really happened there," Seif El-Dawla added.

Focus on foreign affairs

Apart from local affairs, foreign relations were clearly at the top of Morsi's agenda.

Within a week of Morsi's inauguration, the Egyptian president travelled to Saudi Arabia. During the last three months he has visited Ethiopia, Sudan, Qatar, China, Iran, America, Turkey, Italy and Belgium.

In high profile speeches at the UN General Assembly in New York and the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran, Morsi repeatedly focused on the situation in Syria, which was received mixed responses.

Last week, Turkish news agency Anadolu published quotes from Morsi's aide, Seif Abdel-Fattah, implying that the president was considering Arab intervention in the embattled country, fueling fears that Morsi was dragging Egypt into a regional conflict.

Abdel-Fattah quickly asserted that Anadolu had misunderstood his point.

Morsi’s speech in Iran at the NAM Summit last August, although winning him points at home, also divided opinion.

Egypt's first official visit to the Shia state since its 1979 revolution, was perceived by many to be an attempt by Morsi to distance himself from Hosni Mubarak’s foreign policy, which aligned itself with the interests of the US and Israel.

However, according to NFPR activist Imam, his speech only fostered Sunni-Shia divisions instead of seeking to bring the two nations closer.

“His address was no different from Mubarak’s rhetoric. Morsi did not, as hoped, seek to build an Iranian–Egyptian–Turkish alliance that could work on solving the Palestinian issue and the Syrian crisis away from US domination," Imam commented.

Israel-Palestine

The historical connection between Hamas and its parent organisation the Muslim Brotherhood (which Morsi hails from), the rise in militant attacks in the Sinai border region and Egypt's crackdown on the tunnels to Gaza, put a spotlight on the country's relations with Palestine and Israel during the last three months.

Talking to Ahram Online, liberal MP Amr Hamzawy criticised the new president for adopting the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in refusing to mention Israel in any of his speeches.

On the other hand, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, in a press statement last week, distanced Egypt from Hamas, saying there will be no Free Trade Zone with the besieged Gaza Strip and condemning Hamas' objection to the destruction of the tunnels along the Rafah border.

To the disappointment of many pro-Palestinian activists, following the 5 August border attacks which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, Egypt’s security forces began attacking the tunnels, which are considered a vital lifeline of food, clothes, building materials and fuel into Gaza.

In response, Hamas held several protests and called on the new president to end the "siege" of the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been subjected to an Israeli blockade since 2006.

Problems in forming the government to blame?

In response to the many criticisms laid at Morsi's door at the end of the 100 days, FJP Spokesman Oqeil maintained that local institutions have yet to come under the full control of the new president and so Morsi has been unable to push through his planned changes for local governing bodies.

This, Oqeil said, has prevented the executive authority from solving the current bread shortage and accumulated garbage crisis.

In addition, it took a month for Morsi to replace the SCAF-appointed government with his own administration. Several liberals and Salafists who were offered positions in the new Cabinet declined the roles.

Morsi's powers were also severely curtailed for the first month, supporters assert, until the president was able to fully wrestle executive authority from the SCAF mid-August.

However, amidst much criticism and praise, recent polls demonstrate a positive national reaction to the new president.

Results of the second opinion-tracker from the independent Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) show 79 per cent of respondents said they were happy with the president's performance, while 13 per cent stated they were not.

Whether this accurately reflects Egyptian public opinion and if this wave of support will be sustained, remains to be seen.

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