Mursi tightens grip on power
CAIRO -- Egypt's Islamist president has given himself the right to legislate and control over the drafting of a new constitution. He has installed at the top of the powerful military a defence minister likely to be beholden to him.
|Phase III coming along nicely...|
Under Mohammed Mursi's authority, officials have moved to silence influential critics in the media. And though a civilian, he declared himself in charge of military operations against militants in the Sinai peninsula.
Over the weekend, Mursi ordered the retirement of the defence minister and chief of staff and reclaimed key powers the military seized from him days before he took office on June 30. With that, Egypt's first freely elected president amassed in his own hands powers that rival those of his ousted authoritarian predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
If left unchecked, there are fears Mursi and his fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, could turn the clock back on the country's tumultuous shift to democratic rule and pursue their goal of someday turning the most populous Arab nation into an Islamic state.
|Not an irrational fear, though it seems that no one in Champ's administration saw this coming. |
Phase I: depose Mubarek.
Phase II: get the Muslim Brotherhood into power.
Phase III: consolidate power and sideline rivals.
Phase IV: transform Egypt into an Islamic state.
Phase V: invade and destroy Israel.
Tell me I'm wrong.
| Phase I-IV are easy enough; there are plenty of precedents in living memory. But Phase V has been unsuccessful the four times it was tried openly, not to mention the two Intifadas. As it is said, Israel has been blessed by the incompetence of her enemies.|
| That they have failed every time they've tried so far doesn't mean they won't try again...|
The Brotherhood already won both parliamentary and presidential elections after the uprising last year that forced Mubarak out. The question now is whether there is any institution in the country that can check the power of Mursi and the Brotherhood and stop them from taking over the nation's institutions and consolidating their grip.
| Of course. The definition of insanity and all that. Y'know, if it we weren't assured it's completely contrary to scripture, one would be forced to conclude Allah actually prefers the Zionist Entity to the entities of his most warlike followers.|
"Are we looking at a president determined to dismantle the machine of tyranny ... or one who is retooling the machine of tyranny to serve his interests, removing the military's hold on the state so he can lay the foundations for the authority of the Brotherhood?" prominent rights activist and best-selling novelist Alaa Al Aswani wrote in an article.
"He must correct these mistakes and assure us through actions that he is a president of all Egyptians," wrote the secular Al Aswani before warning that Egyptians will never allow Mursi to turn Egypt into a 'Brotherhood state.'
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the country's top reform leader, issued a similar warning. After Mursi stripped the military of legislative authority, and in the absence of parliament, he cautioned that the president holds 'imperial powers.'
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled Egypt for 17 months after Mubarak's ouster, dissolved parliament after a court ruled that a quarter of its members were illegally elected and claimed legislative authority for itself. It stripped the presidency of many of its key powers before it handed the office to Mursi.
The defence minister ordered to retire was the head of SCAF and the outgoing chief of staff was his No. 2. During his campaign and the early days of his presidency, Mursi touted himself as 'the president of the revolution' and spoke tirelessly of democracy. He pledged inclusiveness, tolerance and promised guaranteed freedoms under his rule -- promises he has done little so far to fulfil.
Supporters of the 60-year-old, US-educated engineer say he simply restored his rightful powers that the military grabbed from him.
Mursi's consolidation of his authority comes at a time when his likely opponents are too weak or distracted to challenge him.
The pro-democracy youth groups behind the uprising are in disarray. They lost much of the popular appeal they once had. Squabbling and demoralised, they may do little more than denounce Mursi just as they did when the military grabbed the president's power in June.
Mursi has counted on the support of the pro-democracy movement in his power struggle with the military. But many of the activists view the Brotherhood as politically opportunistic and obsessed with power, suspecting Mursi is driven by those same ambitions.
"Courageous presidential decrees have foiled the counter-revolution plots," Brotherhood stalwart Essam Al Erian wrote on his Twitter account of Mursi's latest stand against the military.
"The president performed his sovereign duty and realised the demands of the revolution. Every revolutionary must support the president to prevent any attempt against the revolution."
For decades the nation's most powerful institution, the military has seen its reputation tainted by the events of the 17 months when it was running the country. Troops clashed with protesters -- sometimes shot them dead or ran them over. The military was vilified for its human rights abuses, dragged into chaotic, post-Mubarak politics and ridiculed in the media.
Mursi's bold order to retire the top brass further hurt the military's image, shattering its aura of invincibility.
Still far from being a spent force or a paper tiger, the military is now led by a defence minister who owes his job to Mursi. He is expected to fight to keep the military's traditional say in key security and foreign policy issues, but he is not expected to challenge Mursi's authority anytime soon. Now Mursi is in effect both the executive and legislative branches combined.
Last week, Brotherhood members of parliament's upper house named 50 new editors of state-owned publications, many of them known to be sympathetic to the group. The move tightened the Brotherhood's stranglehold on the media after one of its members took over the Information Ministry in a newly appointed Cabinet backed by the group. Mursi, according to insiders, is expected to press ahead with efforts to expand the Brotherhood's control.
He plans to soon replace many of Egypt's 27 provincial governors with Brotherhood members or sympathisers of the group and purge the judiciary of judges known to be opposed to its policies, according to the insiders familiar with deliberations in Mursi's inner circle. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.
"We are now rid of a state run by the military. What is left for us to do is to rid ourselves from the state of the Brotherhood," wrote columnist Mohammed Amin in the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm daily.
Posted by: Steve White