President Morsi's Fluctuating Fortune
10 December, 2012
By Saeed Qureshi
Egypt's newly elected president and former chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) might have mistakenly taken it for granted that his decree to immunize his decisions from the legal oversight and interference may not evoke mammoth protests rallies, now rife in Egypt. The FJP is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Morsi took this decision under the apprehension that once again the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) of Egypt may dissolve the parliament before the ratification of the drafted constitution. It would be worth recalling that on 14 June 2012, the SCAF (the Supreme Council of Armed Forces) dissolved the parliament at the recommendation of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. The judges have been the appointees of Hosni Mubarak.
On 8 July 2012 President Morsi through a decree reinstated the dissolved constituent assembly till such time as the new constitution was passed by the parliament and ratified through a referendum. The Supreme Constitutional Court however, called that decree into question on 9 July 2012.
It was in this background that president Morsi revoked the SCC prerogative to challenge his decisions. President Morsi apprehended that before the assembly could pass the constitution it may be dissolved again by the SCC. For him to get out of this tricky imbroglio was to make himself immune from any legal action. Morsi claimed that the decree was issued to prevent the courts from dissolving the Constitutional Assembly.
He asserted that equipping himself with unlimited powers was to "protect" the nation, and to legislate without judicial oversight or review of his acts. By a referendum he wants to push through Egypt's newly approved draft constitution that was fundamentally based on Islamic Sharia. Morsi's political opponents have described his decree an unwarranted and unusual attack on the independence of the judiciary.
The massive protests are reminiscent of those that were staged against the former president Hosni Mubarak and that resulted in his ouster from the power. While the anti- Mubarak protests were also joined rather spearheaded by the Muslim Bortherhood cadres, the anti- Morsi agitation in Cairo's Tehrir square are being participated by pro-democratic liberals, leftists, secularists, Christians, and Mubarak supporters.
Now it appears that the situation in Egypt is getting unwieldy for FJP. The huge protests of the Egyptian people are not exclusively against Morsi's amassing absolute powers. The protesters apprehend that the new constitution passed by the constituent assembly will not be secular and liberal and instead pave way for the imposition of rigid Islamic Sharia law. That would be another kind of theocratic dictatorship although in sheer contrast to Hosni Mubarak's secular dictatorship, supported by the armed forces.
There seems to be no let up in the fast escalating mammoth wave of protests not only in Cairo but in other Egyptian cities. The grave situation remains stalemated despite president Morsi's offer to the opposition for a dialogue and promise to annul his decree after the passage of the constitution and holding of referendum. President Morsi seems to be caught unaware and under sheer self-assuring misunderstanding that he would sail through the rough water smoothly.
Now the tumultuous situation is extremely dicey. The opposition would not let him off the hook so easily. Either he will have to withdraw his decree or resign. If he withdraws his decree then the specter of dissolution of the assembly would remain dangling over his government's head. The SCC may once again declare presidential decree as unconstitutional and reorder holding of fresh elections. The military not very friendly towards the FJP and Muslim Brotherhood government may put its weight behind the legal ruling.
Either way Morsi will have to give in. By withdrawing the decree he would be immensely weakened politically. If he holds on to his ground and pushes through for approval of the new constitution in the reinstated constituent assembly, the protest would get further fierce and bloody. That ugly situation may once again prompt the army to step in and roll up the democratic turf. In this speculated eventuality Egypt would be back to square one. The pro democracy protesters would again come to Tehrir square against the army rule.
The army may again announce for the new elections as the incumbent assembly would remain dissolved and a new one would have to be chosen. If the Muslim Brotherhood government is forced out of power, its rank and file would whip up more aggressive and violent agitations pushing Egypt towards a dreadful disorder and instability or a civil war.