President or puppet?

Anti-Mursi protester eats in front of graffiti with ( R to L ) Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak, former Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi on the wall of the presidential palace in Cairo, December 8, 2012. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

The dangerous lack of foresight which Mohammad Mursi has shown over the last few weeks, during which he has literally played with people’s lives, serves as a worrying wake-up call to all those concerned with the future of Egypt.

While Mursi has withdrawn the controversial decree which would have granted him wide-ranging powers, immune from judicial review, he is sticking firm to the referendum, scheduled for Dec. 15, on the draft constitution which opposition figures slam as being one-sided and unrepresentative.

Mursi is neglecting to do justice to all the groups and sects of Egypt. Rather he appears to see himself as president of one faction – the Muslim Brotherhood – and not as president of 83 million people.

Mursi seems to believe that the 50 percent share of the vote which he received is enough to keep him and his decrees afloat. However, he appears to be forgetting that many voted for him not from a position of overwhelming support for the Brotherhood but instead their ballot in his favor was influenced by a desire to reject the alternative, which for many represented the status quo and the old guard, which they had doggedly fought for in toppling former President Hosni Mubarak.

Having fought for their freedom, many with their lives, Egyptians deserve representation which is honest and transparent, and which strives for the good of the country as a whole. This has yet to transpire.

The mass protests, and deaths, which followed Mursi’s announcement of the decree, should have been expected by the president and his advisers. Politics is not a game of waiting and reacting. It must involve careful analysis and insight, allowing for reasoned decision-making. Issuing rash statements, and then ultimately retracting them following an outcry which many would have expected, is not presidential behavior.

This lack of vision, wisdom and governance does not bode well for the future of Egypt. His backtracking and hasty decision-making also works against the country’s image at a time when it is in dire need of international support, both in terms of tourism and aid.

While campaigning for the presidency, Mursi claimed to be an independent candidate, with the best interests of the country and its citizens at heart, but since his election he has proven himself to be little more than a puppet for the Brotherhood, and one that is prepared to push the party’s objectives, despite how far removed that agenda may be from the true aspirations of the majority of Egyptians.

Before it is too late, and the dreams of the revolution are forgotten forever, Mursi must task an independent committee with drafting a new constitution, one removed from the short-term wishes of one party. Otherwise he has to brace himself for more ongoing discontent on the streets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 10, 2012, on page 7.




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