Morsi and Brotherhood isolated vs. Military, Courts, Secularists

The reaction to Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi’s call to reinstate the dissolved parliament was largely negative on Monday and Tuesday morning, except among supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and among small leftist youth groups. Given that the Carter Center and other bodies concerned with human rights had denounced the dissolution of parliament roundly, I am a little surprised at how the main leaders of the left and the liberal streams in Egyptian politics came out against Morsi’s move (many of them had at least tacitly supported Morsi against his opponent, Ahmad Shafiq– a former Air Force general associated with the old regime). But now, they are pushing back against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is a bad sign that whereas the Egyptian stock market rose when Morsi was elected (on hopes of stability), it fell when Morsi called for the old parliament to meet.

The most serious development was that the Supreme Constitutional Court reaffirmed its judgment that the parliament was elected illegally and must therefore ‘disappear,’ i.e., be dissolved.

In fact, the head of the Courts’ Association gave Morsi 36 hours to reverse himself.

Worse for Morsi, the Supreme Administrative Court, the only civilian body that has the authority to over-rule the president, said that it would make its own ruling. The Brotherhood had complained in mid-June that the Administrative Court had not been the body to order the dissolution of parliament, arguing that the Supreme Constitutional Court can’t order specific actions on the basis of its rulings, it can only decide whether something is constitutional or not. But if the administrative court now weighs in and concurs in the dissolution of parliament, the Brotherhood can hardly complain (they called for the court to act).

Angry shoving broke out on Tuesday morning at the Supreme Court, causing that body to adjourn.

As might have been expected, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces reaffirmed its own dissolution of the parliament and said with a forced smile that it was sure all the political actors would obey the courts. Despite the icy communiques issued by each side, Morsi sat amicably next to military head Gen. Hussein Tantawi at a cadet graduation ceremony.

What I hadn’t expected is that Morsi’s liberal and leftist presidential rivals came out against this move. Abdel Moneim Abou’l-Futouh, the liberal Muslim candidate of the Center Party, called Morsi’s move unconstitutional. Leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahi, said it wa a waste of presidential authority and also castigated it as disrespectful of the courts and of the rule of law. Muhammad al-Baradei, former head of the International Energy Agency called the decision ‘drespectful of the courts.”

Nearly as many Egyptians voted for the secular candidate, Ahmad Shafiq, as voted for Morsi, the Shafiq supporters are likewise mostly outraged by Morsi’s action. Egypt is becoming polarized.

Tuesday will see a big ‘million man march’ by the Muslim Brotherhood in support of Morsi, along with further interventions from the courts and the military.

Will try to do an update later today as events unfold. But, nothing decisive is likely to get decided today. This conflict is sort of like Native American skirmishes, where most of the action involved war paint and taunting, rather than actual lethal engagement. At least that is so far the case.

7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great insights Juan. I don’t think you can divorce politics from the economy. When it comes to importing wheat & fuel Egypt is hanging by a (Saudi) thread: the recent 1.5 B $ loan. If Morsi gets his way vs the military a bread crisis will break out quickly. Doesn’t chaos guarantee military takeover?

  2. I am relieved that the Brotherhood’s nominal allies have turned against them, if that indeed is the case. My impression is that the moderates have been blinded by their understandable hatred of the old regime, and have been used by the Brotherhood.

  3. “It is a bad sign that whereas the Egyptian stock market rose when Morsi was elected (on hopes of stability), it fell when Morsi called for the old parliament to meet.”

    Whether or not it is a “bad sign,” it is perfectly consistent with the desire for stability. Whereas Morsi’s election portended potential stability, his calling for the old parliament to meet (against the wishes of the military and the court) was guaranteed to create more instability.

  4. Professor Cole,

    This is off topic, but I was wondering if you could tell us something about the shooting and arrest in Saudi Arabia of Sheikh Nimr al Nimr. There have been off and on protests in eastern KSA for quite some time. But since the arrest, there have been many more. Here is a youtube of one of them.

    link to youtube.com

    Any insight you could offer would be much appreciated.

  5. I cannot see how a president, operating under the thumb of a military dictatorship without the participation of a parliament could be acceptable to the anti-dictatorship forces. I am perplexed by the liberal/left’s characterization of the attempt to gain some legality (in the larger sense of operating with the counsel of elected representatives of the people)as “disrespectful.” Even if the people’s representatives cannot pass laws, they could provide constructive debate.

    A split among the anti-dictatorship forces is, of course, a boon to the military dictatorship. But I would not place much stock in the number of votes for Shafiq. Some of the people who voted for him were simply voting against hegemony by Islamists, and some people didn’t vote because they felt that either choice was unacceptable. In other words, support for Shafiq seems tepid, while support for Morsi seems more strongly felt among his supporters.

    Egypt does seem to be headed toward anarchy. But in the face of a dictatorship that refuses to allow the people’s representatives to even meet, I don’t see how Morsi has a choice.

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