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Constitutional declaration leaves Egypt's Morsi with declining support

Almost a week after president's divisive decree, Morsi's next move will depend largely upon who is still with him and who is against him

Dina Ezzat , Tuesday 27 Nov 2012
Morsi’s deciding factors
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (Photo: AP)
Views: 2840
Views: 2840

President Mohamed Morsi is in a difficult position – almost a week after last Thursday's controversial constitutional declaration – according to aides, critics and even some members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).

Morsi is not through the first six months of his four-year term. Yet already calls are being made in massive demonstrations for Morsi to 'leave' – the rallying cry of the 25 January Revolution that forced Mubarak out after three decades in office.

Public dissatisfaction with Morsi might have been ignited by the new constitutional declaration, by which the president, who already holds executive and legislative powers, abruptly put himself beyond judiciary power. However, it is not only about this.

Anger against Morsi, the first ever freely-elected civilian president of Egypt, has many sources and is related to a series of events. One clear source is the continued decline of socio-economic conditions in Egypt.

Another source is the continued decay of public services that was tragically demonstrated by a road/rail disaster earlier this month that left close to 60 children dead. Then there is the growing apprehension among Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist quarters, over the drafting of the constitution and the recent withdrawal of close to one third of the drafting committee.

There is also displeasure among female and Coptic quarters, along with other minorities, at what amounts to, in the words of some feminists and Coptic activists, as a "condescending approach."

"The rights of Copts are mentioned in some of the speeches of the president, but very scarcely seen in his decisions," criticised Nader Shokri, a Coptic activist.

"Women’s rights are not at all a priority for President Morsi," said Inas Mekkawy, founder of the new women’s rights group 'Bahiya.'

"But over and above, he decided to make himself the sole owner of the country and the only decision-maker whose decrees can't be appealed," said Raniyah Husseini, a 33-year-old banker who participated in last Friday’s rallies against Morsi's constitutional decree.

On Monday evening, following an extended meeting between the president and Egypt's Supreme Judiciary Council, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told the press that Morsi's controversial constitutional decree applied only to his "sovereign decisions."

Ali declined to offer any definition as to what would constitute a "sovereign" decision. He, however, added that, at the end of the day, the president was not introducing any amendments to his constitutional declaration.

This came as no shock to activists, who hadn't expected the president to be flexible. "On Tuesday we still plan to insist that this constitutional declaration be annulled," said activist Khaled Abdel-Hamid.

Morsi's next move will be based essentially on who is with him and who is against him. And to judge by the accounts of informed sources, Morsi does not have much support to back him now.

Already, some of Morsi’s key aides have resigned. According to sources, these aides include Vice President Mahmoud Mekki, key political Islamist and former presidential runner Selim El-Awa, and other aides, including Coptic writer Samir Morkos.

"Some of these aides and officials have announced their resignations, but others have chosen not to either out of courtesy to the president or to give him a chance to reverse what he did," said a presidential source.

Also standing divided on supporting Morsi is the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a meeting on Sunday evening, much criticism was levelled against Morsi's administration of the crisis and the language and style of the constitutional declaration. Sources from within and without the Muslim Brotherhood speak of the "anger" of the Brotherhood's most powerful man, Khairat El-Shater.

"Some people think that this anger was prompted by the campaign launched on Facebook calling for the boycott of products sold at the stores owned by the Msulim Brotherhood, but financial losses are the least of their worries now. The main worry is about the image of the Muslim Brotherhood as aspiring dictators – it is not at all fair; the Muslim Brotherhood are not dictators," said a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure who declined to be named.

Also shrinking is the president's faith in the uncontested support that he would have from the army and police should the demonstrations against him expand or turn into a state of civil disobedience. An army general told Ahram Online that the army for the most part never really welcomed the idea of a civilian president, especially one from the Muslim Brotherhood, and that Morsi's constitutional declaration had only increased this sentiment.

According to presidential palace and ministry of interior sources, the president is not at all satisfied with the level of security that was accorded the offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and has complained to the interior minister about alleged deliberate negligence that allowed some of these offices to be recently attacked by anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Worse, Morsi, according to the same sources, received reports suggesting that some police and army officers had openly expressed support for the anti-Morsi demonstrators.

Meanwhile, Morsi appears to know that the volume of support that he has within the judiciary cannot in and of itself spare him from an otherwise angry judiciary, which feels that it is being openly marginalised for the first time in its history.

According to a judicial source, one of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council openly told Morsi on Monday evening that his constitutional declaration amounted to a vote of no-confidence in the entire judiciary.

Worse still, Morsi has to worry about resentment against the "dictatorial content" of his constitutional declaration from within the Islamist camp. Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fottouh, a former presidential runner who spent four decades in the Brotherhood, clearly rejected the constitutional declaration.

Judicial figure Tarek El-Bishri, associated with the Islamist camp, openly attacked the constitutional declaration. Mohamed Abdel-Qodous, a leading figure of Egypt's Press Syndicate and long-time Muslim Brotherhood member, openly rejected the constitutional declaration. Ibrahim El-Hodeibi, a political activist and researcher with an affinity for political Islam, whose family gave the Muslim Brotherhood two out of its seven supreme guides, also protested against the constitutional declaration.

The joke on Facebook and Twitter today is that Morsi has nobody left to support him except his spouse – an exaggeration of the declining support that political activists hope will convince the president to withdraw his constitutional declaration.

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© 2010 Ahram Online.