The American Bear


Morsy, the human being | Mahmoud Salem

During the first and second round of the presidential elections I always had a problem with regarding President Mohamed Morsy as a real human being with real dreams, real fears and ambitions. I always viewed him as something unreal and virtual, a construct representing the Muslim Brotherhood. It naturally didn’t help that he was an alternate candidate, always in the shadows, or that when he got presented to us he had no real personality to begin with. I had resigned myself to view him, like many others like me, as a puppet, a front to whatever unholy alliance the SCAF and the MB were creating. However, very recently, I started to ignore my prejudices and take a closer look, especially with the fiasco surrounding the reassembling of parliament.

Please don’t misunderstand; my rethinking had nothing to do with Morsy’s decision and its aftermath. Far from it. Something else entirely caught my attention, and I am sure many other as well, as to the timing of the decision and the reversal of it, also where Morsy was at this time, especially when recanting the decision. The presidency issued the decree cancelling the former decree bringing back the parliament and apologized around 6 pm last Wednesday. Did Morsy announce this very important and politically dangerous decision, after the political firestorm his first decision caused himself? Nope, it was the presidential spokesperson who did. Mr Morsy was in fact not in the country at the time, but rather in Saudi Arabia on an official visit. The question that everyone should ask is how did that happen?

The bringing back of parliament by presidential decree, and the constitutional court decision to strike that decree down, was a momentous stand-off, and one that cornered Morsy and galvanized many sides, for and against, meaning that the decision to take back that decree had to be politically calculated by advisors (political, legal, media) with the President himself being involved in drafting it. That didn’t happen. Instead, Morsy flew to Saudi (alone mind you – with no entourage of any kind) in the morning, and the decision came out of the presidency while he was in a meeting. Who took that decision? Who drafted it? We know that the original decree was announced the next day to a Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Council meeting, which means that they were the ones that drafted it, so if the one recanting it happened while he was away, then they drafted it as well. This means that the argument that Morsy has no powers due to the supplementary constitutional declaration by SCAF is false; Morsy has no power because the Guidance Council are the ones making all the decisions for him. This is why no government has yet been announced, with Essam ElArian, who has no official capacity in Morsy’s government, announcing its developments, instead of Morsy’s office itself. Morsy, literally, is the Guidance Council’s puppet and is being used by them during their continuous negotiations with the SCAF. Do you ever wonder what that must be like?

Imagine that one day a group of people you trust and are related to come to you with the proposal: they will start a huge company that will do great things, and they need you to be its CEO. They promise you a huge salary and all the prestige in the world, while assuring you that you won’t actually have to do any of the work, but rather that everything will be taken care of by very capable people, ones that they will choose. It sounds awesome at first: all the glory, none of the work, so you accept. And then those very capable people start managing things very badly, which brings the heat on to you. People start calling you, asking you how you could take this or that stupid decision, and urging you to use your power to fix things. But you have no power, so you call those who are under you, basically begging them to stop messing things up, and that’s the extent of your power. Everyone is mad at you, for reasons that are not under your control but are happening in your name, and there is nothing you can do about it. Doesn’t sound so great now, does it? If it was you, you would quit. But Morsy can’t quit. And he is not a CEO, he is the revolution’s president, and it has only been a month. Four more years of this – imagine.

Morsy is not a construct, no matter if that is how he appears to me. Morsy is a human being. He has a family. He has children. The children have friends, are on facebook and twitter, and watching the world asking daily why their father took this decision and didn’t take that decision, and they call him to tell him what’s going on, asking that he takes a decision, and he can’t. All the prestige, none of the power, in the middle of a war aimed at you. Slowly everything seems hollow to him, and he struggles with notions of self-respect and dignity. Morsy had a cause, he went to jail for that cause, and now he is being asked to be the martyr for this cause, but without any honourable death involved. Instead, it’s a death by a thousand paper cuts. And it has only been a month.

Did you know that Morsy was not officially invited to Saudi Arabia? That the Ambassador gave him a cordial diplomatic invite simply positing that Saudi is looking forward to his probable future visit, and that Morsy jumped on the opportunity and told him that he is coming tomorrow, alone, and without an entourage of any kind? Morsy was literally escaping to Saudi and while he was there he did an Umra, during which he was pictured crying. Again, it has only been a month. How long until Morsy, the human, cracks?

Morsi provokes Constitutional Crisis in Egypt by recalling Parliament | Juan Cole

Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi tried to steal third base on Sunday, announcing that he was calling back into session the dissolved Egyptian parliament. It would continue to meet, he said, until new parliamentary elections, to be held within 60 days of the completion of the new constitution. He thus took on both the Supreme Court and the officer corps, setting the stage for a face-off.

The law under which the parliament had been elected was found unconstitutional by Egypt’s Supreme Court in mid-June, and it found that the body was null and void as a result. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) then ordered the parliament dissolved. It later scheduled new parliamentary elections for late 2012, after a new constitution is crafted. SCAF also rather weirdly declared that in the absence of a legitimate civilian parliament, its 22 officers would serve as the legislative branch of national government until the new constitution was in place and a new parliament could be elected.

I personally think that this attempt to replace the parliament was intended to give SCAF the right to appoint and oversee the constituent assembly that will draft the new constitution, so as to be in a position to safeguard the prerogatives of the military and to forestall a total Islamization of the constitution.

Morsi decreed that the parliament elected late last fall continue to meet until a new one was elected. This decree puts him in the position of trying to overrule the Supreme Court as well as trying to overrule SCAF.

It also gives Egypt two national legislatures at the same time, the military and the civilian. Or more likely it is intended as a way of making the military go back to its barracks, since with a civilian executive, legislature and judiciary, there is no real room for SCAF in governance. […]

Since parliament is usually in recess in summer, and always during the fasting month of Ramadan, which is approaching, it is unlikely that Morsi’s resurrected parliament will even meet very much. His call for parliament to reconvene is a symbolic attempt to clip SCAF’s wings and to assert his powers as the elected president against their continued junta.

So he is trying to steal third base. The question is whether SCAF and the Supreme Court will risk trying to get him tagged out. And whether the spectators and fans will rush the field and riot.

Update from Monday morning:
Egyptian parliament dissolution “binding” | Al Akhbar English

Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court said on Monday that all of its rulings were “binding,” in response to a presidential decree reinstating parliament after the court ruled the house invalid.

“All the rulings and decisions of the Supreme Constitutional Court are final and not subject to appeal…and are binding for all state institutions,” the court said in a statement.

Although SCAF mobilized Mubarak’s National Democratic Party network in favor of Shafiq, and attempted to directly intervene to rig the final count, their efforts failed. Some activists are running some wild conspiracy theories -which I disagree with- along the lines of Morsi being the ‘real SCAF candidate’ or that he won by a deal. The blunt fact is, although SCAF is in still in control, they might not be as confident and powerful as most revolutionaries think. The majority of those who are cheering the electoral results are not necessarily happy about Morsi’s victory, as much as they are relieved that Shafiq, the representative of the SCAF-backed counterrevolution, is not in office. Hossam El-Hamalawy, Morsi, SCAF, and the Revolutionary Left

No going back on constitution supplement, says SCAF member | Egypt Independent

Major General Mamdouh Shahin, member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, on Wednesday said the junta will not back down from the supplement to the Constitutional Declaration that certain political forces want to annul.

“Nor will we give in to demonstrators in Tahrir Square,” he added.

“President-elect Mohamed Morsy will take the oath of office at the Supreme Constitutional Court,” Shahin said. “And the military council is preparing for the ceremony to hand over power to him.”

Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan said protests in the square will continue until the declaration is canceled and Parliament reinstated, and other group leaders said they reject Morsy being sworn in at the Supreme Constitutional Court because this would be an acceptance of the supplement to the Constitutional Declaration. Ghozlan added that negotiations are ongoing in search of a political solution to this problem.

For a look at the SCAF’s silent coup declaration (amendment to the constitution) passed last week, click here.

See also:

Morsi’s presidential challenges | EgyptMonocle
Brotherhood says nearing deal with SCAF on president’s powers | Al-Masry
Power sharing agreement with military not a political deal, says Brotherhood | Al-Masry

One of the first decisions will be appointing different vice-presidents. One of them will be a woman, for the first time in Egyptian history - not just modern history, but all Egyptian history, for a woman to take that position. Also, he has decided to appoint a Christian vice-president, and they will not just be a vice-president who will represent a certain gender or sect, but a vice-president who is powerful and empowered and will deal with critical files within the presidential cabinet. Ahmed Deif, a policy advisor to Egypt’s president-elect Mohamed Morsi

Does Egypt Have a New President? | As'ad AbuKhalil

[…] No one knows what role Mohammed Mursi will have. No one knows what prerogatives and powers the new president will have. The military council will tailor the new constitution according to its interests, and to the interests of its sponsors in Riyadh and Washington, DC.

[…] Mursi is now a president of Egypt, but he has two bosses – the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, which plucked him from obscurity to appoint him as a reserve candidate, and the Military Council which still insists that it alone determines the course of Egypt’s foreign and defense policies.

You may know who is ruling Egypt by watching the Rafah crossing. If it remains closed, you know that the generals (and Israel and Saudi Arabia behind them) are still running the show.

Egyptian Court Stops Army Arrests | The Daily Beast

There will be fewer cuffs in Cairo after a court ruling Tuesday. The decision by an Egyptian judge is a key victory for Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s […] president-elect, in his struggle to wrest power from the military council that has governed the country since leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year. “The court has blocked the decision of the Minister of Justice that gave military and military intelligence officers powers of arrest,” a Cairo judge said Tuesday. Earlier this month, Egyptian generals implemented legislation appointing themselves constitutional arbiters, giving military police the power to arrest any and all citizens. Now the Cairo administrative court has overturned part of that decree, after a challenge from rights activists and politicians. Most of the military’s emergency powers remain unpopular—but still on the books.

Uncertainty Grips an Egypt on the Brink | Juan Cole

[…] The campaign of Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, the secular candidate in Egypt’s presidential election, announced Tuesday that its tally gave its candidate 51% of the vote in the election held this past weekend. Official results won’t be reported until Thursday, and an annoyed High Electoral Commission reprimanded the candidates for announcing results prematurely. Muhammad Mursi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, had earlier claimed victory, saying he has 52% of the votes versus 48% for Shafiq. Mursi’s millions of followers had already staged celebrations of his victory, and if it is in fact withdrawn in favor of Shafiq, there will be a lot of hard feelings and possibly even violence. […]

Shafiq’s claim is the most dangerous among a large number of perilous maneuvers taken by Egyptian political actors since last Thursday.

It was risky for the Egyptian judiciary to declare the parliament elected last fall to be null and void, and to order its dissolution (an executive decision not in fact a prerogative of the court). It thereby stole the votes of millions of Egyptians and delivered a slap in the face to the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated the parliament and now have been deprived of the fruits of their victory at the polls.

Sending the parliament home is dangerous because if the Muslim Brotherhood concludes that the old Mubarak elite in the courts and the military is determined never to let them win in civil politics even if they play by the rules, then they may decide to play a different game which they can win, the game of violent theocracy.

We have seen this movie before, and it is entitled Algeria. (In 1991 there, the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation front won the parliamentary elections. The generals sent them home and dissolved parliament. That step threw Algeria into 15 years of vicious civil war, in which perhaps 150,000 people died)

I had thought that some of the sting could be taken out of the dissolution of parliament if Mursi, the fundamentalist, won the presidency. Then he could give the Brotherhood some cabinet posts, e.g.

But if the government now abruptly declares that Shafiq has won, despite the certitude of the Brotherhood that it came out ahead and knows the local poll numbers to prove it, then there is likely to be a blow-up. The Brotherhood will consider that it has had two elections stolen from it.

The openly fraudulent parliamentary election of fall, 2010, in Egypt was one of the causes of the revolution that began on Jan. 25, 2011.

I thought to myself, the 22-member SCAF cannot be so stupid as to take this sort of risk. Surely they know that the country is mobilized and could easily erupt. But as you see the SCAF on television nad hear about their actions, you find it hard to escape the conclusion that yes, they aren’t being very bright, and appear unaware of how perilous their path is.

They are seeing what they can get away with.

SCAF ups powers | Egypt Monocle

"Just as the vote counting began, the constitutional declaration — signed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — dampened whatever faith was left in the independent authority of the incoming president."

The Supplementary Constitutional Declaration

Article 30: President is to be sworn in before the Supreme Constitutional Court if parliament is dissolved.

Article 53: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in its current form, has the authority to decide on all affairs related to the Armed Forces, appointing its leaders and extending their terms in office. Until a new constitution is approved, its head [Tantawi] has all the authorities stipulated by laws and bylaws granted to the head of the Armed Forces, the minister of defense.

Article 53: The president can only declare war after SCAF’s approval.

Article 53: In case of turmoil in the country, the president can resort to the armed forces to maintain order and protect state facilities, after SCAF’s approval.

The law outlines SCAF authorities and duties, and incidents where it can use force, arrests, detentions as well as its legal jurisdiction and cases of no responsibility.

Article 56: SCAF will resume the responsibilities stipulated in Clause 1 of Article 56 in the March 2011 constitutional declaration until a new parliament is elected. [This article gives SCAF the right to assume legislative authority until a new parliament is elected. Previously, SCAF had the power to overrule legislation]

Article 60: If the constituent assembly cannot carry out its work, SCAF will form a new representative assembly within a week, to draft a new constitution within three months of its formation. The constitution will be put up for a referendum within 15 days of its completion and legislative elections will take place a month after its approval.

Article 60: If the president, the head of SCAF, prime minister, the Supreme Council of Judicial Institutions, or one fifth of the constituent assembly find that any of the constitutional clauses conflict with the revolution’s goals or the common principles of Egypt’s past constitutions, they have the mandate to ask the assembly to amend the said clause within 15 days.

If the assembly insists, the matter can be brought to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a final ruling within up to seven days. The referendum will be delayed until the constitution is ready in its final form.

Articles 38 will be changed to the following: The law regulates the right to contest the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council according to any election system it determines. –The Egypt Monocle

From Arab Spring to military dictatorship | War in Context

The New York Times reports: The Muslim Brotherhood on Monday projected its candidate as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, hours after the ruling military council issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against a victory by the Islamist candidate.

The military’s new charter is the latest in a series of swift steps that the generals have taken to tighten their grasp on power just at the moment when they had promised to hand over to elected civilians the authority that they assumed on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. Their charter gives them control of all laws and the national budget, immunity from any oversight, and the power to veto a declaration of war.

After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament elected four months ago, and locking out its lawmakers, the generals on Sunday night also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution. State news media reported that the generals had picked a 100-member panel to draft it.

“The new constitutional declaration completed Egypt’s official transformation into a military dictatorship,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, wrote in an online commentary. Under the military’s charter, the president appeared to be reduced to a powerless figurehead.