Inching towards a showdown?

Mohamed Mursi’s decision to reinstate parliament has locked him in a power struggle with judges and generals – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din,     12 – 18 July 2012.

The 8 July presidential decree issued by Mohamed Mursi reconvening the People’s Assembly after the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) dissolved it on the grounds that it was elected unconstitutionally is being viewed by most commentators as the Muslim Brotherhood’s first major broadside in its battle to Islamicise Egypt.  

The move places the Brotherhood’s successful presidential candidate at loggerheads with both the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Minister of Defence Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and the judicial authorities led by the SCC.

Mursi’s decree, says the head of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Diaa Rashwan, represents a coup against the judiciary and could lead to open conflict with SCAF.

“Mursi’s order is the first step towards implementing the Brotherhood’s ultimate goal of seizing control of all legislative, judicial and executive powers,” Rashwan told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The visit of US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns to Cairo this week, argues Rashwan, emboldened Mursi to issue his surprise order after just nine days in office.

“The decree came hours after his meeting with Burns on 8 July. It was intended to send a message to the military and other authorities, warning them that the Americans want him to assume full powers and that they are ready to protect him to achieve this objective.”

Rashwan’s analysis is shared by many secular politicians … //

… The judiciary has been supported by a number of prominent political activists who view recent events as symptomatic of the Brotherhood’s desperate grab for absolute power. Presidential runner-up Hamdeen Sabahi accused Mursi of conniving to help the Brotherhood maintain control of the legislature regardless of its legality. The Free Egyptians Party has charged that Mursi’s order “lays the foundation of the Brotherhood state.”

Rashwan believes the Brotherhood has exposed “its ugly face” and is now intent on terrorising judges and the Egyptian people to submit to its vision of an Islamist state”.

SCAF responded to Mursi’s move by issuing a carefully-worded statement on Monday. Without naming the presidency, it urged all state authorities to respect the constitutional addendum issued on 17 June.

Rashwan believes the polite tone adopted by SCAF shows that it is under heavy pressure from the US not to openly challenge Mursi.

“SCAF leaders are afraid that America might cut its annual military aid [estimated at $1.3 billion] and that Hillary Clinton could ask Congress to do so.”

On Tuesday Clinton weighed-in with an admonition to Mursi and SCAF to settle their differences “before they derail the transition”.

“SCAF will avoid any display of force,” says Rashwan, “for fear the Americans will accuse the generals of following the Syrian scenario.”

“The generals are hoping that legal action against Mursi, backed by judicial and civilian forces that fear a religious state, will harm Mursi, perhaps to the extent that he can be prised from office.”

SCAF’s statement might also, posits Rashwan, be intended to send a tacit warning to Mursi that “there is a red line he should not cross and he must respect the 17 June declaration reserving legislative authority to SCAF”.

The military council’s statement insisted “legal precedents and the institutions of the state must be respected”.

Rashwan believes that there will be “more competitive dueling between SCAF and the judiciary on the one hand, and the Brotherhood on the other, as each party tries to impose its authority and seek the subordination of the other”.

“SCAF will do its best to ensure that the constitution is drafted in a way that does not curb its powers and privileges and that the Brotherhood will not be given an opportunity to penetrate the army. The judiciary will seek to make sure the Brotherhood does not interfere with its action or impose its hegemony on their ranks. Mursi and the Brotherhood, on the other hand, will be seeking ways to broaden their influence and advance their Islamist agenda.”

“SCAF,” warns Rashwan, “must never forget that the Brotherhood’s long term strategy is not to advance the lives of Egyptians but to secure all the levers of power and then use them to implement its version of an Islamist state. The Brotherhood believes that time, and now the Americans, are on its side.” (full text).

Comments are closed.