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Eric Walberg’s essay on Muhammad Morsi’s recent decrees stands out as an insightful article. There hasn’t been particularly good coverage of these recent events in Egypt by the general media. Morsi just comes out as a power grabber, and the rantings and ravings of the judges of the Constitutional Court appear in the banner headlines as the offended voice of justice.
Nothing is said for instance about the fact that days before the election of Morsi as President, when things looked like they were going against the old régime’s candidate (Aḥmad Shafiq), and SCAF issued it’s own unilateral Constitutional Declaration giving themselves unchecked powers in June this year, these very same judges were quietly supportive.
In fact, one of the chief judges, Tahānī al-Gebālī, crafted SCAF’s Constitutional Declaration herself, and she was personal lawyer to Suzanne Mubarak, the ex-dictator’s wife. Not that Gebālī had anything to do with this, but to give you an idea of the character of her client, you have to note that the European Union grant of $145m to new Alexandria Library had been purloined by Mrs Mubarak, and the directors of the library had to go chasing after her for the money.
These judges current rantings and ravings have the purpose of trying to unseat Morsi from the Presidency by bringing all the projects to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions to a grinding halt. Before leaving the Constituent Assembly to disable it from writing the constitution, some ex-MPs from the secular liberal parties attempted to add a blatantly political clause to the effect that there had to be new presidential elections once the new Constitution had been agreed. The small amount of stability that Egypt now possesses in having at least an elected President who is a civilian and not a soldier would have been lost.
Of course these liberal secularist parties have been fighting tooth and nail ever since the January 25th 2011 uprising to exclude the Muslim Brothers from power by encouraging a military initially in shock from the uprising to stake a direct political claim in the democratic process. So how come the opposition candidate to Morsi, essentially thus representing the liberal and secularist parties, was a soldier, and a soldier essentially motivated to stand for political office, not to help his country, but to gain immunity from prosecution for selling land under his control as Aviation Minister at a ridiculously low prices to Mubarak’s sons?
The reason is essentially that the majority of the so-called liberal secularists are on the left and fighting to maintain a failing statist system left over from Nasser’s disastrous socialist experiment of 1961/2. This state, its corruption and waste is under threat from the Muslim Brothers who want a more open economy.
Now these Muslim Brothers are far from unreconstructed neo-liberals. They realise that Mubarak’s crony capitalism fostered by neo-liberal policies has made individuals rich without making the country rich. These elements on the right are currently allied with those on the left trying to keep the old system going.
The Muslim Brothers also have an unblemished anti-colonial and anti-imperialist record and understand full well the need to maintain local control over business and resources. Michael Neumann wrote an excellent article in Counterpunch on June 25, 2012, explaining how the Muslim Brothers had earned their strong showing in the polls and in the eventual elections through 85 years of providing a welfare system and an education for the poor that Nasser’s overweening state had dismally failed to provide. The state on the other hand knew very well how to persecute and torture members of the Muslim Brothers. In fact, it did that so well, it became a torture sub-contractor of choice for unnamed foreign nations under the guidance of Omar Suleiman.
It may seem to outside observers that Morsi’s decrees have led to mayhem and disorder, but he will win through just like he did against the military. The Muslim Brothers will take the punishment meted to them, just as they have over the past 85 years, whilst keeping their counsel. The decrees are out there as a negotiating tool, to get the Constitutional Court to focus. The members of that court having been each individually extraordinary beneficiaries of the last régime, they have a lot to lose. If it seems as if Morsi backed down over trying to re-establish an unfairly dissolved Parliament, he chose then the path of conciliation on a matter where in fact he was right, but where he felt he could offer an olive branch to his opposition. When they failed to respond in the country’s interest as he had done, he had to make a move. Eric Walberg’s sense of the situation is correct.
Omar Kassem is an Egyptian living between London and Cairo; a Cambridge graduate in theoretical economics, post-graduate and Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He has taken a long sabbatical from his business to right a book on justice and the prospects of the nation-state in the light of the decline of Western state capitalism and the Arab Spring