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Crucial juncture
Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (C), head of the military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (L) and Egyptian armed forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan (R) attend a graduation ceremony for air forces cadets in Sharquiya, 65 km northeast of Cairo, July 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout)
Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (C), head of the military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (L) and Egyptian armed forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan (R) attend a graduation ceremony for air forces cadets in Sharquiya, 65 km northeast of Cairo, July 10, 2012. (REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout)
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The brief meeting of parliament in Cairo Tuesday, in defiance of the Supreme Constitutional Court, reveals that the newly elected President Mohammad Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood are becoming selective in their adherence to legislation.

The move threatens an already tenuous relationship between the former senior member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the military and the country’s highest court. And once again, it is the Egyptian people who will suffer.

Over a year after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown, the political situation in Egypt is far from settled, and Tuesday’s parliament session risks throwing down the gauntlet to all those critics of the Muslim Brotherhood, both local and international, who have claimed Mursi and the party do not have the country’s greater interests at heart.

Mursi seems intent on proving that he has absolute power, but no one has disputed his position as the first democratically elected president since he was sworn in. This early on in his presidency he should not feel he has to prove his command of power through positions which will inflame an already volatile situation between the military chiefs and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is also imperative for him to remember that half the people who were eligibleto vote in the presidential elections did not, in fact, vote for him. With an Islamist-dominated, albeit now dissolved, legislature, Mursi may well feel that he has the country behind him, but resting on this belief will be a dangerous move.

Since the election, Mursi has repeatedly claimed to be president of all people, regardless of religious or political affiliation. He now has to show this in actions, not just words. His decision to call a parliament session reeks of bias, and if such a move is repeated it will exacerbate fears that Egypt’s president has no qualms about pushing a certain agenda, regardless of the costs.

It is still too early to cast a final judgment on exactly what kind of Egypt Mursi wants to see, but with reports that extremist clerics have called for the destruction of the “pagan” pyramids, he must make his opposition to such stances clear.

Mursi can either be a president who rules in line with an independent judiciary and the rule of law, or he can decide that the support of the people will be enough to carry him forward. He cannot have both.

And, as the Egyptian people have now shown, if they are unhappy with the state of government, they will make their dissatisfaction known. The president is treading a fine line.

The euphoria that followed the toppling of Mubarak has now dissipated. I

f Mursi is to move his country forward, for its 80 million people, he is going to need to decide what kind of president he wants to be.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 11, 2012, on page 7.
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