Newly elected President Mohamed Mursi's decision to recall parliament has revealed worrying links between the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party and the presidency, writes Ahmed El-Tonsi
Newly elected President Mohamed Mursi's decision and that of the Muslim Brotherhood to recall the People's Assembly has serious current and future implications. Among such implications is the fact that the decision has revealed the role played by Mursi as a direct partner in his parent organisation's aspirations, plans and strategies to achieve its objectives. The decision expresses the view that Mursi has simply ratified the decision of the organisation, adhering to its directions in terms of timing as well as the content of the unfortunate decision.
By deciding to recall the parliament, Mursi has acted as a member of the Brotherhood, fulfilling its demands even when these do not coincide with the public good of the Egyptian people. Mursi has shown that he will operate under the guidance of the organisation and assert its positions and stands. Many have claimed that the decision was meant as a show of power on behalf of the Brotherhood and an attempt to remove the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and impose its hegemony on the whole landscape. However, it can be said that the organisation has erroneously selected its arena.
The constitution and judicial verdicts cannot be the aim of any exercise of power. This would be a zero sum game. The question here is whether the rule of law exists or not. When it is a matter of challenging the final finding of the highest court in the land, the issue is one of an existential threat to the state itself and not just to its institutions. The real aim of the Brotherhood has been to complete its control over all the institutions of the Egyptian state. By monopolising the executive and legislative branches of government and pacifying the military and curbing the judiciary, the Brotherhood has sought to pursue its goal of dominating the new state
It could be argued that Mursi is the chair of the Brotherhood's political wing the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and that he is simply implementing its electoral platform. However, the deliberate ambiguities surrounding the real power arrangements within the troika of the Brotherhood, the FJP and Mursi have been such as to cast dark clouds of uncertainty over the whole political landscape, yielding societal division not national unity and conflict not consensus.
Clearly, there will always be ill-defined boundaries between Mursi's role as president and his deep commitment to the Brotherhood's values, vision and leadership. In effect, his decision has explicitly illustrated the fact that the new president will remain in this cloudy environment, reflecting the hidden power structure within the informal troika.
No less serious has been the escalation of the conflict between the troika on the one hand and the judiciary on the other. Mursi has followed the demands of his two partners in the troika, the FJP and the Brotherhood, and the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) has been downgraded to just one forum among many others. This is a predetermined maneuver to downgrade the prestigious institution and to dilute its role on the scene, with the presidential decree recalling the dissolved People's Assembly being a worrying attack on the state's founding principle, the supremacy of the law.
Many commentators have rightfully described Mursi's decision as disrespecting the SCAF's Constitutional Declaration, as well as the SCC and its verdict dissolving the People's Assembly, which should have been binding on all state authorities. What should be kept in mind is that the Constitutional Declaration, or any other constitutional documents, save for those to be drafted by the Brotherhood and its supporters, are not likely to be looked on with respect by the Brotherhood, whose slogan has long been "the Quran is our constitution".
The assumed submission of the Brotherhood to civil constitutional documents should therefore be viewed within the broader framework of the organisation's own version of an Islamic state and its institutions and laws. The submission of the troika to these documents was a case of accepting Caesar's rule for a short time only and during an interim phase that the organisation itself has called the tamkin period. Regrettably, the Muslim Brotherhood has not abided by the laws of the land, while at the same time refraining from becoming a legal entity. It would not therefore be advisable for people to put too much faith in its respecting the constitution.
What the troika has missed is that in doing so it has raised the expectations of the masses, which supported Mursi in his ill-fated step. Raising expectations in this way, done by a seemingly powerful president, will be a major factor in the coming period of Mursi's "hundred-day programme." It seems unlikely that such people will tolerate the inertia, perplexity and even inaction that have been characteristics of the president in his first days in office. Criticism of these characteristics should not be taken as a hasty or harsh judgement, since the Brotherhood, the largest political force on the Egyptian political scene, evidently lacks a coherent programme that can stabilise the state, correct the economy and resolve the substandard security conditions.
The proof of such defective short and long-term planning on the part of the Brotherhood has been evident in its failure to identify a new government that will implement its Renaissance Project. This failure implies that the Brotherhood has not done its homework. It has laid out its project without answering the basic question of who will implement it.
Only a few leaders realise when they cannot do more. Most repeat their old mistakes while thinking, usually through self-deception, that they are on the right track in doing so. No wonder such leaders have eventually fallen as a result of not being aware of changes taking place at deeper levels of society. The masses will judge the many missteps taken by the Brotherhood in the transition period and in its period in office. History tells us that assaults carried out by the executive branch of government on the judiciary have rarely been forgiven or forgotten.
The writer is a political commentator.