Challenges Ahead of Egypt’s President Morsi

Possibility of Repeating the February 11 Mistake:
By Abdelrahman Rashdan
Political Science Researcher

Supporters of Morsi celebrate his victory at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt -Reuters
Egyptians, almost everywhere around Egypt, celebrated Egypt’s first elected president after the Jan. 25 revolution. (Reuters)
Challenges Ahead of Egypt’s President Morsi

From behind the Egyptian flags flying everywhere, and the deafening noise of car horns with people shouting: “Morsi... Morsi!” in jubilation as Morsi was declared Egypt’s president, there was a quiet woman walking towards the street with a serious face that stood out strange from the crowd of cheerful and joyous celebrators; her sign read: “We do not want to repeat the same mistake of February 11.”

Egyptians, almost everywhere around the country, celebrated the historical event: Egypt’s first elected president after the January 25th revolution. President Mohamed Morsi won the elections after a ferocious  fight with his run-off competitor Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. Although the pro-revolution President Morsi is the best option for the Egyptian revolution to achieve its goals, Egyptians should understand that the revolution has just started, yet on a different level.

Among the main challenges that will be facing Morsi as soon as he gets inaugurated at the beginning of July are:

  • National reconciliation
  • Dissolution of parliament
  • SCAF’s  constitutional declaration
  • Controlling the executive branch of the government

If the MB did not continue the pressure through Tahrir then it might be risking losing the support it recently won from the other political movements.

After getting used to having the president get 99.9 percent in any elections/referendum, Egyptians finally witnessed how merely two percent could change the entire elections results. Out of Egypt’s 85 million, about 50 million were eligible to vote. Out of those, only 25 million participated in the elections. And out of the 25 million, 13.2 million voted for Morsi, which  accounts for 51.7 percent of the total vote. Add to this is the fact that not all of the 13.2 million Egyptians voted for Morsi because they are convinced with having him as the country’s next president, some voted for him only because they feared seeing the old regime retake Egypt.

The point here is that Morsi has a long, uneasy way to go to achieve national reconciliation and undo the divisions that have been created in the Egyptian society before and after the revolution. President Morsi has to unite the Egyptians and along with that, make the revolution succeed. His failure to do that will not only result in the failure of the revolution, the failure of the Egyptian democratic state, the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), but it will also mark the failure of the first real chance for Islamic politics to be applied in Egypt. “Political Islam will fail if Mohamed Morsi forgot even for one moment that he is the president of all Egyptians and not the Muslim Brotherhood,” Soliman al-Behieri, expert on strategic planning and economics, told Radio Masr on June 24,2012.

Morsi vs. SCAF

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Another big obstacle that Morsi is facing is how to deal with the SCAF in regards to the dissolution of parliament and the SCAF’s constitutional declaration that limits much of his powers.

The scene in Tahrir has been glorious for the past few days where many different political movements united to reject the SCAF’s decision to dissolve parliament, issue the constitutional declaration, and allow the military the right to arrest people on the street in the same way it was done under Mubarak’s infamous emergency law. Such unity in Tahrir has been strongly supported by the MB and it was a good tool to use pressure against any intention by the SCAF to twist the result of the elections against the MB’s candidate. Now that the MB got its candidate in the presidential palace, it will be dangerous to lift off its backing and support  for the ongoing protests  in Tahrir. If the MB did not continue the pressure through Tahrir to reverse the SCAF’s three decisions then the MB might be risking to lose the support it recently won from the other political movements, which will mark the exact repetition of the MB's mistake after the parliamentary elections of partially deserting Tahrir.

At the same time, now that the new president is elected, he will be asked to deliver and start working, which is hard to do while having big demonstrations in the heart of Cairo. Morsi’s best  option might then be to smartly redirect the pressure of Tahrir towards the SCAF and use it as a card in negotiations. He has to unite himself with Tahrir and act through the title he was given, ‘the revolution’s president’ and not just a new president for Egypt. Al-Behieri advised Morsi that he “has to work with the revolutionary legitimacy until his constitutional legitimacy is completed.”

Executive Branch, Under Morsi’s Control?

If those holding the keys of ministries were affiliated with the old regime then Morsi’s powers will be paralyzed, or manipulated by the SCAF to say the least.

The final, and might be the hardest challenge, facing President Morsi is controlling his own executive branch of the government. On the paper, a president should be in full control of the executive organ of the state, as he heads the organ, according to the  constitution;  yet in the post-revolution Egypt this might be an exception.

The old regime, which some mistakenly perceive as  having only a few remnants, , is still active and  controlling the backbone of the country. In practice, the ministers appointed by Morsi will be dealing with an established network and hierarchy of personnel inside each ministry. The “keys” for the ministries usually lie in the hands of the second-tier employees who know the nitty-gritty of how things get done, not the ministers. If those holding the keys were affiliated with the old regime, to which there is no evidence to disprove, then Morsi’s executive  organ will be paralyzed, or manipulated by the SCAF to say the least.

February 11’s Mistake

What makes the woman’s alerting signal — “we do not want to repeat the same mistake of Feb. 11” — carry a very deep meaning is that Egyptians thought there was time to rest after bringing down Mubarak. They celebrated and forgot about the real depth of the regime controlling Egypt. Now Egyptians are celebrating, after which they must not rest.

Related Links:
President Morsi Calls for Egypt Unity
Islamists Claim Egypt Presidency
Egypt’s Critical Moment and Election Scenarios
Abdelrahman Rashdan is a political science researcher and commentator specialized in national security and the Middle East.

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