Morsi's first 100 days: The balance sheet
The 100 days President Mohamed Morsi set aside to complete his five-point presidential program comes to an end on Monday after an eventful few months. The Egyptian head of state promised to address Egypt's most pressing issues including its traffic problem, accumulated garbage, fuel and bread shortages and the security vacuum, in less than four months.
"There has been a lot of progress in at least four of these files. People only focus on the negatives," claimed Ahmed Oqeil, Cairo spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Ahmed Imam, another member of the NFPR who voted for Morsi in the presidential runoff with former regime member Ahmed Shafiq, dismissed the five presidential promises as "only electoral slogans which were unattainable in 100 days." Rather it was more important, he said, to focus on Morsi's failure to use the "historic revolutionary moment to change Egypt's approach to its economy."
On 12 August, Morsi surprised the nation when he canceled the military-authored 17 June addendum to the 30 March 2011 Constitutional Declaration and transferred full executive and legislative authority from the military council to the presidential seat. Morsi had, commentators said at the time, successfully bought an end to the military regime. Oqeil added that the president had also largely ended the much-condemned practice of trying civilians in military courts. Only a few cases remain, Oqeil asserted, which is one of the many achievements of the committee. No to Military Trials for Civilians campaign activist Mona Seif, who has spent the last 18 months campaigning against the practice, argues that although there has been some progress, Morsi's committee has overlooked key issues. EIPR's Bahgat pointed out that other rights continue to be compromised, in particular freedom of expression. However Bahgat recognised that in response, Morsi had issued a law banning the detention of journalists pending investigation.
During Morsi's 100 days, there has also been a significant increase in individuals accused of "contempt of religion," much to the alarm of free speech defenders.
Oqeil, for his side, asserts that since the "100 days" kicked off on 2 July, there has been an increase in security presence on Egypt's streets, after the police ostensibly disappeared following last year's 18-day uprising. This is one of Morsi's main achievements, Oqeil concluded, claiming that the security vacuum that Egypt had suffered from has been filed and that crime has decreased. Some Egyptian rights activists, however, challenge Oqeil's glowing report on the security situation during the first three months of Morsi's rule. Student sit-ins have been violently dispersed. Workers' strikes were similarly attacked using "old [regime] tactics" such as police cooperating with the business owners' hired private security. In addition to reports of violent police behaviour, Egypt's military and police forces launched a series of "anti-terrorist" raids in the North Sinai region, including airstrikes on the population of the peninsula, which raised the alarm of rights activists.
An increase in employees taking industrial action has been one of the most significant developments during the last 100 days. Since early July, transport workers, doctors and teachers have all staged intermittent strikes and protests against low pay and deteriorating living standards. Tahsin, a remote delta village, went as far as to declare independence from the Daqahliya governorate last week and launched a campaign of civil disobedience, complaining it had received no state services in decades.
Apart from local affairs, foreign relations were clearly at the top of Morsi's agenda. Within a week of Morsi's inauguration, the Egyptian president travelled to Saudi Arabia. During the last three months he has visited Ethiopia, Sudan, Qatar, China, Iran, America, Turkey, Italy and Belgium. In high profile speeches at the UN General Assembly in New York and the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran, Morsi repeatedly focused on the situation in Syria, which was received mixed responses. Last week, Turkish news agency Anadolu published quotes from Morsi's aide, Seif Abdel-Fattah, implying that the president was considering Arab intervention in the embattled country, fueling fears that Morsi was dragging Egypt into a regional conflict. Abdel-Fattah quickly asserted that Anadolu had misunderstood his point.
Morsi's speech in Iran at the NAM Summit last August, although winning him points at home, also divided opinion. Egypt's first official visit to the Shia state since its 1979 revolution, was perceived by many to be an attempt by Morsi to distance himself from Hosni Mubarak's foreign policy, which aligned itself with the interests of the US and Israel. However, according to NFPR activist Imam, his speech only fostered Sunni-Shia divisions instead of seeking to bring the two nations closer.
The historical connection between Hamas and its parent organisation the Muslim Brotherhood (which Morsi hails from), the rise in militant attacks in the Sinai border region and Egypt's crackdown on the tunnels to Gaza, put a spotlight on the country's relations with Palestine and Israel during the last three months. Liberal MP Amr Hamzawy criticised the new president for adopting the position of the Muslim Brotherhood in refusing to mention Israel in any of his speeches. On the other hand, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, in a press statement last week, distanced Egypt from Hamas, saying there will be no Free Trade Zone with the besieged Gaza Strip and condemning Hamas' objection to the destruction of the tunnels along the Rafah border.
To the disappointment of many pro-Palestinian activists, following the 5 August border attacks which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, Egypt's security forces began attacking the tunnels, which are considered a vital lifeline of food, clothes, building materials and fuel into Gaza. In response, Hamas held several protests and called on the new president to end the "siege" of the impoverished Palestinian territory, which has been subjected to an Israeli blockade since 2006.
In response to the many criticisms laid at Morsi's door at the end of the 100 days, FJP Spokesman Oqeil maintained that local institutions have yet to come under the full control of the new president and so Morsi has been unable to push through his planned changes for local governing bodies. In addition, it took a month for Morsi to replace the SCAF-appointed government with his own administration. Several liberals and Salafists who were offered positions in the new Cabinet declined the roles. Morsi's powers were also severely curtailed for the first month, supporters assert, until the president was able to fully wrestle executive authority from the SCAF mid-August.
However, amidst much criticism and praise, recent polls demonstrate a positive national reaction to the new president. Results of the second opinion-tracker from the independent Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) show 79 per cent of respondents said they were happy with the president's performance, while 13 per cent stated they were not. Whether this accurately reflects Egyptian public opinion and if this wave of support will be sustained, remains to be seen.
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