A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, December 10, 2012

Egypt as the Referendum Approaches

The polarization in Egypt continues. Though over the weekend President Morsi did rescind his Constitutional Declaration, he did so while insisting on going ahead with the December 15 referendum on the Constitution, and at the same time giving the Army the authority to maintain security between now and the referendum.

In the present political impasse I find the secular/liberal camps refusal to negotiate with Morsi over the weekend somewhat questionable: it's true Morsi showed no signs of being willing to yield on the critical question of the referendum, but the refusal to sit down with him sounds as if the liberals are in fact doing what Morsi accuses them of doing: refusing to accept that Morsi won the election, if only narrowly. The fact that the liberal opposition are planning to boycott the referendum also strikes me as self-defeating: te referendum was likely to pass anyway, but this will guarantee fewer "no" votes. What does that achieve? I feel Morsi has been far too imperious in his attempt to ram the Constitution through, but by refusing to negotiate the liberals may be handing him an inevitable victory.

A few key commentaries worthy of your attention:
  • Ellis Goldberg at Foreign Policy: "Egypt's Political Crisis"; Goldberg emphasizes the dispute is primarily political, and stems from major miscalculations;
  • Nathan Brown at Foreign Affairs: "Egypt's Constitutional Conundrum." Our best expert on constitutionalism in the Middle East reminds us that constitutions always need to be judged by the political environment at the time of operation.

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