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October 15, 2012
One hundred days into the term of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Egyptians and the media are asking the obvious question: what has Mohamed Morsi achieved? The answer, for most, seems to be “surprisingly little,” despite some important victories in various face-offs between the president and the military (the long-time ruler of the country). However, as last week’s clashes following the failed reshuffling of a Mubarak-era official demonstrate, even when it comes to tweaking governance structures, Morsi might have reached the limits of what he can do in the absence of a constitution and clearly delineated presidential powers. The question now, for some observers, is: Will Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood abide by the rules of the game or will they attempt to rewrite the rules to fit their needs?
Writing for one of Egypt’s main dailies, Al Ahram, Amira Howeidy makes it clear that the Morsi presidency has reached “it's accountability time. Morsi says he has kept 70 per cent of his promises. Independent observers such as the morsimeter.com website beg to differ. He has kept six out of the 64 promises he made, they say. The jury is still out on 24 others. The rest haven't even been broached....That there has been no decisive shift away from his predecessor's policies, in either the domestic or international arena, leaves Morsi the target of criticism that will inevitably mount....One hundred days at the helm of a state reeling beneath decades of systemic corruption is not enough to pass judgement on Mohamed Morsi. What he needs to show now, though, is that he intends to do something other than follow Mubarak's footsteps, even if he does so without the plundering.”
Reem Leila, writing for the same daily, reports that similar feelings of underachievement about Morsi’s first 100 days are widespread across the Egyptian electorate, even though some are willing to give him high marks for the way he has handled the relationship with the military establishment: “Most people, experts and political analysts believe Egypt's freely elected president fell short of his people's expectations. Morsi, who came to power on 1 July with an ambitious plan to end the country's chronic problems during the first 100 days in office, has barely met any of his pledges. Some experts say Morsi has disappointed a wide public and shattered their dreams regarding tangible change while others believe the president made a good start by putting an end to military rule that has been dominating the country since the 1952 Revolution.”
For others, though, Morsi’s apparent lack of achievement has a sinister side: that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood seek autocratic power. In an article for the Egypt Independent, Zeinab Abul-Magd accuses Morsi for doing nothing more than donning on the erstwhile Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser’s mantel, but without the latter’s achievements: “Mohamed Morsi has now completed his first 100 days as president, during which he and his society of Muslim Brothers have done nothing significant, except eagerly sleep in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s bed....But Morsi has failed in doing what Nasser — regardless of his oppressive policies — did in his first 100 days. The Brotherhood has managed to obtain a strong grip over apparatuses of repression in Nasser’s state, but appears incapable of dealing with the colossal economic realms he erected.”
Maher Hamoud’s editorial note for the Daily News of Egypt is even more damning of Morsi, accusing him of lacking a clear vision for the country while sharing deposed ruler Hossni Mubarak’s methods: “We should not forget that Mubarak had successfully managed to run an oppressed nation for thirty years and made them cheer for him....This does not mean that President Morsi is another copy of Mubarak, but sadly he does not have a different vision for the country. He is using the same tools and even almost the same people....Unfortunately, it seems that the daily Brotherhood newspaper Freedom and Justice was right when they congratulated President Morsi in June upon victory in elections and gave him the name Mohamed Hosni Mubarak as an editorial typo. Now it makes perfect sense.”
In the aftermath of this weekend’s clashes, in another Daily News of Egypt article, Ziad Akl asks a number of important, albeit rhetorical questions about the Muslim Brotherhood’s ability to function in a democratic society where dissent is still possible: “The clashes last Friday were horrible but they were not surprising. Have we ever known the Muslim Brotherhood to be tolerant to critique? Since the ousting of Mubarak, were they ever modest enough to admit to their mistakes, or even recognize the simple fact that they can make mistakes? Can we expect a group that never cared to legalize its existence to actually respect any law? The lesson that the Brotherhood must learn is that they will be opposed....Finally, since Friday, one question has been haunting me. Amidst the clashes between the protesters, where was the police?”
A few regional editorials also commented on the ongoing developments in Egypt. The Saudi Gazette, for example took the opportunity to highlight the untenable situation in which the different Egyptian institutions find themselves, given the lack of clearly delineated powers: “On the surface, the latest rock-throwing incident in Cairo that injured over 100 is explained by the court ruling that acquitted former officials charged with killing protesters in the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year. But even before the ruling, things were simmering....Morsi must by now know the limits of his powers — what he can do and what he cannot. If his authority was properly defined, he would not now be in the embarrassing situation of firing an official who defiantly stays on, and can do so legally. Changing the prosecutor involves an independent judicial move. The president cannot interfere in the judiciary system every time he or the general populace or both disagree with a court ruling.”
The Khaleej Times editorial also focuses on the unfinished work of the Tahrir Square revolution, while cautioning the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi about the limits of their powers: “The Muslim Brotherhood is witnessing the perils of power. The unrest in Cairo, coupled with the clashes at Tahrir Square, is a grim reminder of an unfinished business in the process of transition in Egypt....Though the ruling Muslim Brotherhood has called for calm and asked its sympathizers to step back, the impression that is rapidly being created of a single-party rule is worrisome. With a mere 100 days in office, Morsi is facing a test of his popularity....It would be prudent of the government to strengthen institutions and act in a reconciliatory manner, in the midst of the evolutionary process. The political turmoil in Egypt is, nonetheless, far from over.”
Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.