A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adly Mansour Signs Off on Wave of Decreed "Legislation" on Eve of Depature

Really, I'm Still President
Egypt's Interim President Adly Mansour (remember him?) leaves office Sunday when Sisi is sworn in. He is, however, leaving with a bang: a string of legislative decrees (in he absence of Parliament, issued by the President), changing the number of seats in Parliament, altering the tax code, and making many other legal changes. Perhaps he's miffed that even before the elections, the press was talking about "President Sisi," or perhaps he's issuing decrees Sisi wants but would rather be able to blame someone else for.

Mansour, who will be returning to his role as head of the High Court, was not exactly a high profile, charismatic figure; he seemed to spend his less than a year as President in Sisi's shadow.

I'm reminded of the "Midnight Judges" case in US history. The second US President, John Adams, a Federalist, had been defeated by Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, in the 1800 elections. Jefferson was due to take office on March 4, 1801. The outgoing Congress passed a new Judiciary Act creating new positions and, on March 3, the day before leaving office, Adams named 16 new Federalist circuit court judges and 42 new justices of the peace, also Federalists, presenting Jefferson with a partisan fait accompli. Jefferson's supporters derided the "Midnight Judges," and this gave rise to the critical Supreme Court case of Marbury vs. Madison, in which Chief Justice John Marshall laid down the principle that the Supreme Court had the power to rule acts of Congress unconstitutional.

Nevertheless, I suspect that Adly was not issuing these decrees without Sisi's prior consent, perhaps so Sisi could later say, "I didn't do that, it was that other guy, whatever his name was!"

And despite the parallel, Adly Mansour was no John Adams, and if Sisi turns out to be a new Thomas Jefferson, Egypt will be very lucky, and I will be pleasantly astonished.

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