A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, June 25, 2012

Morsi is a President with No Parliament, No Constitution, and Few Powers: Why He Must Be Conciliatory

Egypt has its first competitively elected President, its first civilian President, and its first Muslim Brotherhood, and they are all named Muhammad Morsi. For all the celebrations yesterday in Egypt, he has neither an overwhelming mandate or universal support, and even if he did, the absence of a constitution means it is far from clear what powers he can exercise. He will name a Prime Minister and a Cabinet but has no Parliament; he cannot declare war, is not the Commander-in-Chief, and does not control the defense budget. It is not even clear if he will serve a full term or face new elections when the new constitution is drafted. This Ahram Online piece notes the timeline of SCAF's stripping the Presidency of its powers.

One of the reasons Morsi was so inclusive in his acceptance speech, appealing to Copts, women, ethnic minorities, etc.,  is surely that he knows all this and also knows that the Muslim Brotherhood hardly swept the elections. In the first round, Morsi won 24.9% of the vote. Less than a quarter of the population. In round two, only 52% of eligible voters voted, and of those voters, Morsi won just under 52% in a near tie with Shafiq. (And the final results almost exactly matched the Brotherhood's claims of victory. Half those who voted preferred Shafiq, a relic of he old regime, over any Brotherhood candidate. This is from Juan Cole:

A lot of Egyptians (not just secularists, women, and Copts, but certainly including them) don't trust the Brotherhood's promises of pluralism, democracy,and tolerance. Having pledged for most of the past year not to run a candidate for President, the candidate they elected in the end may have problems convincing people the Brotherhood keeps its promises.

And of course, there's SCAF, which has been pretty clear that it intends to keep a close watch on things  until a new constitution is place. Or as this notes:
"President of the Republic" (Morsi)
"President of the President of the Republic" (Tantawi)

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