Egypt's President Morsi in power: A timeline (Part I)

Osman El Sharnoubi, Friday 28 Jun 2013

Key events in the Egyptian president's first year in office: Morsi wins support as he wrestles power from the military but ends 2012 ratifying a controversial constitution

Egypt's President-elect Mohamed Morsi waves to his supporters on Tahrir Square (Photo: AP)


The honeymoon (June - October 2012)

June 24- Supreme Presidential Elections Commission announces Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party candidate Mohamed Morsi the winner by a narrow margin over his opponent in the second and final round, Mubarak-era minister Ahmed Shafiq.

June 29- President Morsi takes informal oath of office in Tahrir Square in the presence of his supporters, opening his jacket to display the absence of a bullet-proof vest.

The informal oath was regarded by various commentators as a stunt defying the Supreme Council for Armed Forces, which had reserved wide powers for itself via a constitutional declaration it issued in March 2011 and an addendum it added in June 2012 during the presidential elections.

June 30- Morsi takes the oath of office. The president-elect is sworn in by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) as stipulated in SCAF’s constitutional addendum, instead of taking the oath at the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

SCAF had decreed the dissolution of the Brotherhood-majority People’s Assembly in June after an SCC ruling that found fault with laws governing the assembly’s elections.

July 9- In the first of many surprise decisions, President Morsi issues a decree to reinstate the dissolved People’s Assembly, ordering that it carry out its function until another assembly is elected two months after the institution of a new constitution which is yet to be drawn up.

July 11- The Egyptian presidency accepts an SCC ruling issued on 10 July suspending Morsi’s decision to reinstate parliament’s lower house, citing its respect for judicial rulings as reason for its acceptance of the court’s decision.

July 19- Morsi orders the release of 572 prisoners detained by the military during the SCAF-led transitional period after the January 2011 revolution. A large campaign titled No to Military Trials had been calling for the release of all who had been detained or sentenced to prison via military tribunal.

July 30- Morsi gives a presidential pardon to 26 Islamist convicts, most of which belong to Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and other hardline Islamist groups, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood. Some had been sentenced to death by state security courts.

August 2- The president appoints Hisham Qandil, the Islamist-leaning minister of irrigation and water resources in outgoing prime minister Kamal El-Ganzouri’s government, as prime minister.

Qandil appoints a Cabinet including Muslim Brotherhood ministers and allies for the first time in Egyptian history.

August 8- Following an attack on a security checkpoint by unknown militants which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, President Morsi orders a security shake up, firing Mubarak-appointed intelligence chief Mourad Mouwafi, the governor of North Sinai, and various interior ministry officials.

Morsi dismisses SCAF head, assumes full executive powers and appoints El-Sissi as Defense Minister (Photo: AP)

August 12–In a bold move, Morsi issues a decree effectively forcing SCAF head and defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and army chief of staff Sami Anan, the second most important figure within the military council,into retirement. Military Intelligence head Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is appointed defence minister.

The same decree reversed the addendum instituted by SCAF in June and amended the March 2012 constitutional declaration, thereby returning full executive and legislative power to the president.

August 14- Morsi grants Tantawi the Grand Nile Medal, Egypt's highest state honour, and Anan the State Medal. Both become advisors to the president following the decree retiring them.

The move, which was described as a soft coup against the military, was also criticised by some for giving the generals a safe exit; the opposition wanted SCAF to be held responsible for fatal violence against protesters during the period of military rule.

August 15- In a second visit to Saudi Arabia - the only country visited by the Egyptian president so far –to attend a summit by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Morsi calls for the end of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s rule. Civil war rages between the Syrian military and armed rebels.

August 22- In a meeting with the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde, Morsi requests an increased loan of $4.8 billion, up from $3.2 billion requested before he was elected, as the economy continues to struggle from a widening budget deficit and contracting levels of foreign currency reserves.

August 23- Morsi issues law banning pre-trial detention of journalists for media-related offences.

August 27- The president appoints four aides and 17 advisors, including Christians, liberals, Salafists and many members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

August 28- In his first visit to a non-Arab state, Morsi travels to China promoting bilateral investment. A number of Egyptian businessmen accompany the president on the trip, many of whom had close ties to the Mubarak-regime.

August 30- In a move that worried the United States, Morsi pays a visit to Iran - the first of its kind in over 30 years - to participate in the Non-Aligned Movement summit. The president unexpectedly raised the heat on the host, criticising Iran’s support for the Syrian regime.

September 6- President Morsi meets with a group of prominent artists and intellectuals after a series of verbal and legal attacks on many cinema actors by Islamists. He stresses his support for freedom of creativity.

Many artists who were outspoken in support of the 2011 revolution, such as director Yousri Nasrallah and actor Amr Waked, were absent from the meeting. The ministry of culture denied excluding pro-opposition artists from the event.

September 13- Morsi condemns attacks by Egyptian protesters on the US embassy in Cairo after an American-produced film mocking the Muslim Prophet Mohamed sparks outrage across the Muslim world.

Warm US-Egyptian relations were briefly strained due to Morsi’s slow response, coming two days after the protest broke out, which prompted a verbal warning from US President Barack Obama.

September 26- President Morsi speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York, reaffirming Egypt’s position against the Syrian regime, highlighting the new "Islamic Quartet" initiative by Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran to find a solution for the Syrian crisis.

While the president criticises Israel for its settlements and hinted at the danger of Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal in his speech, back in Egypt, the presidential spokesman announces that there is no need to amend Israel’s Camp David treaty with Egypt.

The treaty - finalised in 1979 - was severely criticised in the wake of the attack in August which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. The treaty limits Egyptian military deployment in Sinai and was blamed for the lack of security which facilitated the attack, prompting demands for its amendment.

canister warehouse
Morsi vows to solve cooking gas shortage during his first 100 days in office (Photo: Reuters)

October 6- Morsi addresses tens of thousands of his supporters on the anniversary of the October 1973 war, claiming much progress in achieving the goals for his first 100 days in office. The goals included solving Cairo’s chronic traffic problems, and dealing with bread scarcities and deteriorating public sanitation.

Critics, who accused the president of failing to achieve his stated targets, hold a demonstration the following week which saw the first clashes between Morsi’s opponents and supporters.

October 9– The president issues pardon for citizens arrested since the start of the January 25 revolution until 30 June 2012 for any actions related to supporting the revolution.

Judicial struggles and a constitutional declaration (October - November 2012)

October 11- Morsi attempts to dismiss Mubarak-era prosecutor general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud from his post by appointing him Egypt’s ambassador to the Vatican. The president backs down two days later after being challenged by Mahmoud and other judges. According to Egyptian law, the president doesn’t possess the power to dismiss the general prosecutor.

October 17- Presenting his credentials to the Israeli government, Egypt’s new envoy to Israel delivers a warmly-worded letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres from Morsi, describing him as a great and loyal friend.

While the letter’s formulation was defended as conventional diplomatic protocol, it nevertheless signals a continuation of Egypt’s friendly relations with Israel under Morsi, a relationship Mubarak was repeatedly attacked for maintaining.

November 3- Morsi meets with opposition figures. Talks with leftist Egyptian Popular Current founder Hamdeen Sabbahi, Mubarak-era minister and former Arab League head Amr Moussa and ex-Muslim Brother Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh - all former presidential candidates - revolved around finding consensus on the constitutional draft being prepared by the Constituent Assembly.

Sabbahi urges the president to rebalance the Constituent Assembly, elected by the Muslim Brotherhood majority parliament, and accused of failing to represent Egyptian society at large.

November 21- Morsi is lauded by the US for his role in brokering a ceasefire between Palestinian Gaza rulers Hamas and the Israeli government after over a week of Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket fire that left over 160 dead.

Morsi shaking hands with Constituent Assembly
Morsi congratulates Constituent Assembly head Hossam El Gheriany, after Constitution is ratified(Photo:Reuters)

November 22- Morsi makes his most controversial and antagonising move to date, issuing a constitutional declaration which puts him beyond the bounds of judicial supervision.

The declaration also shielded Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, which was writing the a new constitution, and Egypt’s upper house Shura Council, from potential dissolution by court order. The People’s Assembly had been dissolved in June after a ruling found elements of theelectoral law unconstitutional.

Both the Constituent Assembly and Shura Council are dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies.

The declaration also gives the president the power to appoint Egypt's prosecutor-general for a four-year period. Judge Talaat Ibrahim Mohamed Abdullah, a former deputy head of Egypt's Court of Cassation, is appointed via the declaration to the post of prosecutor-general.

The declaration also orders the retrial of anyone accused of killing and injuring protesters during the 2011 Tahrir Square uprising, if new evidence is provided.

The move is immediately condemned by the opposition, many judges and prosecutors, and large sections of the Egyptian public as dictatorial. The declaration is defended by its proponents as a necessary move to safeguard the revolution. Several of the president’s 21 advisors resign.

The weeks that followed see nationwide protests and several massive demonstrations in Tahrir Square and at the presidential palace in Cairo as well as clashes between the president’s supporters and protesters, with hundreds of injuries and several deaths.

The constitution is pushed through (December 2012)

December 2- Morsi calls for a constitutional referendum on 15 December after a night of feverish work by Constituent Assembly members to complete the contentious charter in a deadline set by the March 2011 constitutional declaration, drawing criticism from the opposition who were dismayed Egypt’s most important legal document was rushed to completion.

The Constituent Assembly has suffered a number of resignations due to claims the large Islamist current within it were monopolising the drafting process. It is ultimately boycotted by most non-Islamist political groups.

Morsi had promised to seek a balanced Constituent Assembly in his presidential campaign, a fact that antagonised the opposition further when he called for the referendum and described the charter as “revolutionary.”

December 6- President Morsi calls for dialogue with political groups. The National Salvation Front (NSF), a loosely based grouping of the main opposition parties and movements which was established after Morsi’s declaration, rejects the invitation and insists the president revokes the declaration and postpones the referendum until a consensual charter is drawn up.

December 9- After a long meeting (boycotted by the NSF) with politicians and public figures, Morsi issues a new constitutional declaration rescinding the older one yet retaining its effects. The new declaration lifts his immunity from judicial oversight but keeps the Brotherhood-dominated Constituent Assembly and Shura Council immune from dissolution.

The second declaration also safeguards the  22 November declaration and “all constitutional declarations” by the president from any challenges via court rulings in the future.

Morsi's move fails to placate protesters, especially as the new declaration rubber-stamps the decision to hold the constitutional referendum. Amid continuing protests, the president gives the military arrest powers until the day of the referendum.

Morsi also approves sweeping increases in sales taxes, only to retract his decision very early the next day, saying he “does not accept that the Egyptian citizen carries any extra burdens without consent.” The measure was part of an economic programme by the IMF aimed to make Egypt eligible for a $4.8 billion loan.

Clashes outside presidential palace
Fierce clashes erupt outside presidential palace following Morsi's unpopular national charter(Photo: Reuters)

December 23- The president appoints 90 members to the Shura Council, filling the last third of the seats, prior to expectations that the constitution will garner a yes vote in the referendum. Appointees include constitutional experts, liberals, Copts and Islamists. Appointments are criticised for including members of the Mubarak regime and ignoring key opposition figures.

December 26- Hours after Egypt’s Supreme Electoral Commission announced the draft constitution had been endorsed by 63.8 of voters, Morsi signs an executive order enacting the new charter. He also announces an upcoming government reshuffle in a television address.

December 29- In a speech at the now-complete Shura Council, Morsi formally passes legislative authority to the upper house of parliament, as stipulated in the new constitution. He highlights the electoral law of the House of Representatives (formerly the People’s Assembly, the lower house of parliament) as a top priority.

Despite the recent downgrade of Egypt’s long term credit-rating to a B-, Morsi says steps are being taken to face Egypt’s economic downturn.

Continue to Part II

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