by Adel El-Adawy
President Mohamed Morsi’s latest move surprised many in Egypt and around the world. Many celebrated the removal of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Enan, while others signaled the alarm bells. On Sunday, the Tantawi hash-tag on Twitter was trending globally as social media exploded with analysis and rumors. At this point, there are more questions than answers. This post will not attempt to answer any questions, but rather highlight some important aspects of Morsi’s controversial Constitutional Declaration.
The removal of Tantawi and Enan is significant, but not consequential. However, the cancellation of the supplementary Constitutional Declaration issued by the military two months ago has drastic consequences. President Morsi has tailored a political landscape in which he has absolute control over the executive and legislative branches of government without any checks and balances.
Moreover, yesterday’s appointment of judge Mahmoud Mekki as Vice-President, who is the brother of Ahmed Mekki, the current Minister of Justice, allows Morsi to gain more influence over the judicial branch. There is a great possibility that Morsi will reshuffle the judiciary and sack Mubarak appointees who have stood against the Muslim Brotherhood in several judicial cases.
The Constitutional Declaration also gives President Morsi the power to establish a new Constituent Assembly to draft the Constitution, if the current one fails to do so. I have argued many times on this blog that the drafting process of the Constitution will be key for Egypt’s democratic transition and the implementation of the January 25 Revolution goals. The current Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly will now have no need to compromise in the drafting process of the Constitution as it knows if it fails that President Morsi will establish his own Assembly.
Yesterday’s events did not prompt any military reaction. But again, what options did the military have? What could the military have done? A Revolt? The military had limited options and if they had done anything it, it would have affected its legitimacy. It is clear that Morsi secretively consulted with some members of SCAF. There must have been a consensus among the military establishment that Tantawi and Enan had to go, but I doubt there is consensus on limiting military powers in the new Constitution. The Constitutional Declaration eliminates military control over the drafting process of the new Constitution; hence, it is still to early to draw any comprehensive conclusions about the military response.
The situation on the ground is changing quickly, but it is clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is consolidating power in Egypt. Yes, having civilian control over the military is an important prerequisite for democracy. But, Morsi also has absolute power now. The lack of checks and balances on all branches of government put Egypt’s still inchoate democracy in jeopardy. The Muslim Brotherhood replacement of editors of major state-owned newspapers and crack down on several other papers, plus its attempt to dominate the drafting process of the Constitution should signal alarm bells, not a sanguine attitude.
I am happy we have elected our first civilian President, but we are far away from a consolidated democracy. I am afraid that the latest political developments will steer us away from a democratic path. Time will tell. For now, I urge all people in Egypt who are worried about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to turn political activism into political participation. Tahrir is not the appropriate venue for the fight against the Brotherhood, rather it is the political arena.
“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”- George Jean Nathan