Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Morsi in charge?

In 1954, two years after their coup, the Egyptian Free Officers issued a decree promising a full return to democracy within four months. Days later, they reneged, dissolved all political parties and confiscated their assets. Accusing all parties of getting support and guidance from unnamed foreign anti-revolutionary powers, they punished the leaders of the parties.  In order to be able to include the Muslim Brotherhood, they upgraded it first to a political party, then dissolved it!
To protect the “revolution”, they gave their Revolution Leadership Council, made up exclusively of the 11 Free Officers, the power of both the Presidency and Parliament, until such time as the revolutionary goal of getting rid of the foreign occupier was achieved. They signed this in the name of their leader, General Mohammad Naguib, who was pushing for a return to full democracy and the abandonment of the Emergency Law. Soon after, they overthrew him and appointed the man behind the conspiracy, Gamal Abdel Nasser, as president for life. All who came after him, Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, were fellow officers. Both of them also meant to stay for life.
The process of a “quick return to democracy” took 60 years, and the Emergency Law lasted until the true people’s revolution in 2011. But it is not “full democracy” yet. The officers are still there, as in Pakistan and Turkey, giving up only what they really have to, and keeping a tight grip on everything else. 
Still, we now have a democratically elected president, albeit with less constitutional authority - as the military officers took some of it back. With that legitimacy and 80 million Egyptians insistent on taking back their democracy from the army, there is hope. 
The list of tasks before President Morsi is hard and long. Atop the agenda are security, economy and national unity issues. In the last 14 months it has been unsafe for people in Egypt to go about their daily lives and business in peace. The police seem to be either helpless or careless. No business can function in such an environment. Thousands of factories, farms and businesses are closing down. Jobs are lost. Investments, foreign and local, are drying up. Tourists, who help to fuel the Egyptian economy, especially from the Gulf, US, Japan and Europe, have almost stopped coming. Even state projects have been delayed.
It is no surprise then that the central bank reserve of foreign currency is close to zero. If there is no real and full return to business as usual in a secure and peaceful environment, the government could go bankrupt and hell’s gates could open in the land of the Nile. We all, in the region and free world, have an interest in preventing such a tsunami from flooding the volatile Middle East.
Egypt’s rich and powerful friends, together with the World Bank and other international financing and development agencies, should lend a hand to the captain of the sinking Egyptian ship. A technocratic, multi-party, non-ideological government should provide the right environment for such help with good and wise diplomacy, security, policies and attitude. It would greatly help to reinstitute or reelect the dissolved Parliament within the three months required by law.
It is a daunting list of tasks, I know, but if achieved, Morsi will enter Egyptian history, as the man who came out of prison and saved the nation. He will, then, be truly and fully in charge. 

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