Saturday, March 2, 2024

EDITORIAL: Egypt’s path to new benign dictatorship


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Calypsonian TC’s lyrics “You know what you got, but you don’t know what you gine get” could apply to the people of Egypt. While Egyptians may not have much to complain about, President Mohamed Morsi’s recent actions have sparked justifiable outrage.
Mr Morsi’s constitutional declaration that allows him to issue decisions and laws unchallenged on a temporary basis has triggered a wave of protests across the country, and set him on course for a showdown with Egypt’s judges.
Courts in some provinces have suspended work in protest while the journalists’ union has decided in principle to go on strike, and a sit-in by opponents of Mr Morsi is being held in the iconic Tahrir Square, which was at the heart of last year’s revolution.
The constitutional declaration states that Mr Morsi can issue “any decision or measure to protect the revolution”. These edits, final and not subject to appeal, have sparked charges that he is taking on dictatorial powers. He has put himself above legal challenge, undermining the rule of law itself.
In a situation where leaders are not accountable to anyone, citizens abandon their trust in the country’s institutions, taking the law into their own hands.
It is possible that Egypt could become a lawless society over the coming months if President Morsi does not pull back from the brink. He threw out an olive branch to the judiciary by agreeing to meet with them to diffuse the situation and reached a compromise that only his decisions related to “sovereign” matters would be protected from judicial review.
Buoyed by his recent success in effecting a ceasefire in Gaza, Mr Morsi had acted in a rather high-handed manner. He had given himself sweeping powers in a move that the opposition called “a coup against legitimacy” and was seen as no different from former ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
The new decree issued last Thursday had said decisions taken by the president could not be overturned by any authority, including the courts. This negates the very spirit of the Arab Spring. The president already has enormous powers, because there is no legislature and he himself makes the laws.
By pre-empting a judicial review of his actions, the president would have armed himself with absolute powers, and it is not surprising his being accused of anointing himself “Egypt’s new pharaoh”. It was said that the Arab Spring was not a search for a new dictator.
Friday’s demonstrations brought Egypt just a short distance from civil war. All of the ingredients are there, and if the regime is not careful, it may risk taking one that will be the catalyst to throw the country into renewed violence and uncertainty.
The more things change the more they remain the same?


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