Egypt is in the throes of yet another political crisis; one that threatens to further polarise an already fragmented nation as it painstaking steers itself through the protracted process of constitutional reforms.
By an executive decree issued on November 22, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi ruled that his decisions since assuming office will not be subject to any form of judicial review or appeal.
President Morsi had recently garnered international adulation particularly in Gaza, Israel and the US for successfully bringing about a ceasefire in the Middle-East. Analysts feel that the decree was timed to derive maximum advantage of his success in brokering truce between Israel and Gaza.
He ordered that no court can dissolve the constituent assembly and also granted the body a further two month extension to draft the constitution which was to be completed by December.
The opposition parties in Egypt have vehemently decried the Presidential decree seeing it as an attempt to head towards a totalitarian regime for the second time.
Nobel laureate and former UN atomic energy agency Chief Mohamed El Baradei lashed out at the declaration which would effectively put the president above the judicial oversight. “Morsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh” he tweeted. He called it a major blow to the revolution that undid Hosni Mubarak’s regime and warned that it could have dire consequences.
It was in January 2011 that the country saw 18 days of unprecedented protests to overthrow the 30-year authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
President Morsi’s office said that the decree was aimed at “cleansing state institutions” and “destroying the infrastructure of the old regime”. Addressing supporters later the President stated that his objective was to ensure “political stability, social stability and economic stability” as the country transitions towards a new constitution.
For a country that has been a masthead for the Arab Spring movement, it is imperative to safeguard the spirit of the revolution that overthrew authoritarianism. It is therefore not surprising that in Egypt any action by those in authority that seems to centralise power is viewed with suspicion.
In June 2012, similar anger poured onto the streets of Egypt following a Supreme Court order that dissolved the lower house of parliament and called for fresh election. It was then seen as an attempt by the military council to retain power. Islamist had then called the Supreme Court action as “a total coup” and warned that “anyone who imagines that the millions of youths will let this pass is dreaming.”
However, the presidential elections were held as promised and brought Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi to power.
The opposition in Egypt will do well to realise that unlike in the case of Hosni Mubarak; Morsi has been elected to power by the very forces that were part of the revolution of 2011. Excessive attempts by the opposition to malign him in their efforts to mobilize public opinion will only result in further polarising the population and fracturing the cause of democracy and spirit of the 2011 revolution.
There may be no harm in the opposition accepting a decree which President Mursi says will only be in force till the new constitution comes into effect. To his credit he has also ordered the re-trial of leaders from former strongman Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
The need of the hour is for the opposition to ensure that the Constituent Assembly does an able job to create a draft broadly acceptable to all.
After all, Tahrir Square is just another call away!
Featured Images of Revolution in Egypt by Maged Helal from http://www.flickr.com/people/magdino20/