Old loyalties die hard
President Mohamed Mursi is finding it hard to avoid accusations that despite the inclusive rhetoric his real constituency remains the Muslim Brotherhood, Gamal Essam El-Din
In his victory speech in front of supporters in Tahrir Square on 29 June Egypt's new president -- Muslim Brother Mohamed Mursi -- proclaimed that he would work for all Egyptians. "If I fail to fulfil my promises," he declaimed, "then do not obey me."
It remains a moot question how many people will take him at his word. A little over two weeks in office, and questions are already being raised about Mursi's intentions: does he really mean to serve all Egyptians, or is he pushing the agenda of the Brotherhood, the group he served loyally for more than three decades.
Mursi's decree reinstating the People's Assembly -- dissolved by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on 14 June -- which has brought him into direct conflict with the judiciary, and his endorsement of the Islamist-dominated constitution-drafting committee, are regularly cited as examples of how he is allowing loyalty to the Brotherhood to trump his promises to 80 million Egyptians.
Brotherhood leaders have mobilised the group's rank and file on more than one front to support Mursi. On Tuesday, hundreds of Brothers gathered in front of Cairo's Administrative Court, chanting slogans against judges who were sitting to prepare verdicts that would decide the fate of, among other things, the 100-member constitution-drafting committee which the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has ensured is packed with Islamists. Brotherhood protesters joined their leaders in accusing both judges, and the independent media, of corruption and bias in favour of the old regime. Judges in turn complained that the Brotherhood was attempting to terrorise them.
Ahmed El-Zind, chairman of the Judges' Club and a vociferous critic of Brotherhood hegemony, insisted that "no one will be able to impose their will on the judiciary" while the presiding Administrative Court judge Abdel-Salam El-Naggar requested security reinforcements to protect judges against Brotherhood and Salafist militias.
The court, which delayed issuing a verdict after Brotherhood lawyers demanded the panel of judges be recused, has already referred petitions filed against the Shura Council to the Supreme Constitutional Court, virtually guaranteeing the Shura Council's dissolution since it was elected under the same regulations -- already judged unconstitutional by the SCC -- as the People's Assembly.
"The Brotherhood believes that it is fighting for its life," says Cairo University professor of law Ibrahim Darwish. "If the administrative courts deem the constituent assembly illegal the Brotherhood will lose the upper hand it fought so hard to secure in drafting Egypt's new constitution. And this will happen after the group has lost any legislative powers because of the SCC ruling on the People's Assembly."
Against a backdrop of intense concern that the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly is attempting to impose its narrow religious interpretations on the new constitution, secular forces joined Copts in protesting against what they characterise as blind US support of Mursi and the Brotherhood. They seized on this week's visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cairo and Alexandria to voice their complaints.
Former Coptic MP Georgette Qillini told CBC television that "liberal forces and Christians have many questions about the sudden love-in between the US administration and the Muslim Brotherhood".
"Even before Mubarak was toppled," she said, "we were surprised to witness a flurry of US delegations coming to Cairo, eager to hold long -- and closed door -- meetings with Brotherhood leaders."
"US officials, and the US media, seem to have fallen for the erroneous line that the Brotherhood is somehow the most representative force in Egypt. They may be the best organised but they command far from majority support. The vast majority did not vote for Mursi. And if elections were held now, even more would say no to the Brotherhood."
Al-Ahram political analyst and former MP Emad Gad argues that incoming President Mursi is more or less under siege by his former Brotherhood colleagues.
"Look at the way each Brotherhood leader is now acting as a mini-president, issuing statements that serve nothing beyond the group's interests and which are designed to tie Mursi's hands. They are preventing him from acting like the statesman Egypt needs, acting in the interests of all Egyptians, because they cannot see beyond the Brotherhood's own partisan advantage."
"Most of his advisors are Brotherhood cadres. They have no experience of governing, and they have dragged him into damaging battles with the judiciary and with the press."
In the meantime, and after much delay, Mursi is expected to name his first cabinet. He held a farewell meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri."
"The name of the new prime minister will be announced within hours," said Mursi's media spokesperson.
Most commentators expect the job will go to one of two economists: Mahmoud Abul-Oyoun, a former governor of the Central Bank of Egypt; or Mohamed El-Erian, a former senior official with the International Monetary Fund. If true, it will reinforce repeated signals from the Brotherhood that the market driven policies espoused in the final decades of the Mubarak regime will remain more or less intact. (see pp.2-5)