Saturday,21 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012
Saturday,21 October, 2017
Issue 1124, 29 November - 5 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Morsi’s way ‘out’

President Morsi needs an exit before it is too late, writes Dina Ezzat

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Al-Ahram Weekly

President Mohamed Morsi is expected to take to the airwaves today and address the nation — not just his Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi followers, to whom he spoke last Friday — and convince them he is committed to reconciliation.

The text of Morsi’s message was still being pondered on Wednesday. Its aim, though, was clear — to contain reactions to the constitutional declaration issued last Thursday in which Morsi effectively neutered the judiciary at a time when, courtesy of an earlier constitutional declaration, he already holds all legislative and executive power.

The president’s advisors and other informed sources agree Morsi will not rescind the constitutional declaration. What he will do depends on who is talking. Some say the most likely scenario is an early referendum on the controversial draft constitution being finalised by a Constituent Assembly that has lost a third of its members and as a consequence is dominated more than ever by Islamists. The move, they say, has the advantage of speeding up the de facto elimination of the constitutional declaration which places Morsi’s presidential decrees beyond judicial review.

Other scenarios revolve around the same trade off, exchanging a widely rejected constitutional declaration for a controversial constitution.

Sources say the president, as well as his Salafi allies, have refused alternatives, including a temporary and downsized constitution or a temporary re-introduction of the bulk of the 1971 constitution, despite the fact that Morsi’s constitutional declaration provoked the largest demonstration Tahrir Square has seen since the downfall of Hosni Mubarak.

But if the president’s supporters are adamant, so too the crowds packing Tahrir Square on Tuesday evening: they rejected any trade-off between Morsi’s constitutional declaration and a constitution many fear is designed to limit the freedom of women, Copts and other minorities.

“He can forget it. If that is what he is planning then he should spare himself the effort,” said Maha, a mechanical engineer and member of the Constitution Party.

What Morsi needs to do, she says, is withdraw his constitutional declaration and accept whatever ruling the Administrative Court delivers on the fate of the Constituent Assembly.

“If Morsi comes out to tell us we have to accept one unacceptable alternative or another that’s equally unacceptable then we will simply tell him that we have no interest in his offers. If he cannot offer anything better then we have no interest in him… He can leave as Mubarak left,” said Amal, a teacher with no partisan affiliation.

Chants calling on Morsi to step down were not the loudest in Tahrir Square, though they could be heard in Cairo as well as other governorates which witnessed violent clashes. And the fact that offices of both the Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), were attacked in a number of towns made the feelings of at least some of the demonstrators crystal clear.

If Morsi does not find a way out of the current quagmire soon, argues lawyer, activist and founding member of the Egyptian Current Islam Lotfi, then his presidency is in danger of sinking.

Lotfi does not believe the constitutional declaration is the sole cause of Morsi’s current woes: it merely compounded existing problems.

“Despite concerns over the performance of the president we all know his removal will aggravate an already volatile situation. There will be severe consequences, economic and otherwise,” says Lotfi. It is therefore up to the president to work out a pathway that leads Egypt away from the brink.

Lotfi does not exempt Morsi’s political adversaries of some of the responsibility for the current stalemate.

“They need to be open to working out an exit scenario that will eliminate any dictatorial attempts on the part of the president or the current political majority but that also takes into account the impact of any further procrastination on stability,” says Lotfi. But, he adds, the president, as head of the executive, “and the one that came up with this constitutional declaration”, must take the lead in exiting the quagmire.

Lawyer and activist Nasser Amin worries that Morsi is not seeking a way out of the current crisis but rather looking for ways to overcome hurdles to imposing “an Islamist constitution”. By attempting to exchange his constitutional declaration for the rushed imposition of the draft constitution, says Amin, Morsi hopes to pave the way for the Islamists’ social and political hegemony.

Members of the Constituent Assembly belonging to the FJP spoke on Tuesday and Wednesday of attempts to convince members who had withdrawn from the constitution drafting committee to rejoin and vote on the final text. The grand sheikh of Al-Azhar joined in the appeals though as Al-Ahram Weekly went to press the majority of those who had withdrawn said they stood by their decision.

Morsi is pondering his options under growing pressures: a nation grieving over the loss of lives of young demonstrators and frustrated by the disappointing performance of the government; state bodies that have never bowed in full to the authority of the Muslim Brotherhood president; a unified opposition that is threatening a civil disobedience; a declining economy; growing concern among Islamists that their popularity is waning and increased apprehensiveness among Western states that Egypt is courting instability in an already fragile region.

“It is not an easy situation but Morsi got us here by insisting on a fully Islamist government, by excluding other national forces and by failing to live up to the expectations of the nation when it comes to transparency and reforms,” says Maha. “He made the problem and he is the one who has to come up with the solution.”

“Whatever choices he makes Morsi needs to avoid offering too little too late. He must be aware of the pace of the public opinion and not to repeat Mubarak’s mistake. We all know where it led Mubarak.” (full coverage pp.2-8)

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