In the Balance: Egypt July 10, 2012
Dr. Muhammad Mursi has now made his first move. Many claimed when this man was announced victor of the presidential race in Egypt that he would be a toothless figurehead. The Army had struck a convincing blow against him by dissolving the parliament dominated by his allies. Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court had ruled just days before his election (undoubtedly at the behest of the Army) that the law governing that parliament’s election was unconstitutional. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces then dissolved the parliament and reserved all legislative and executive power to itself thus leaving the new president with little ability to control the government.
Now the man has struck back. On Sunday President Mursi called the dissolved parliament back into session and it met this morning for fifteen minutes in order to file suit on its own behalf in court to quash SCAF’s dissolution order. Moments ago the Supreme Constitutional Court fired its own shot by invalidating Mursi’s order calling the parliament back into session and postponing the hearing of the parliament’s suit against SCAF until July 17.
The courts in Egypt are not the sort of independent institutions one grew accustomed to in the Western world that are supposedly independent of political interference and decide cases on the merit of the evidence. The Egyptian judiciary, especially at the higher levels, is massively politicized and stocked with appointees from the Mubarak era who share the interests and worldview of the military elite. We will doubtless see many analysis of Egyptian law over the coming days in order to divine the future moves of the president, the army, and the courts. It is important to understand though that this is not about law but politics. The decisions of the court and the law itself in Egypt have been and will continue to be treated with a high degree of scepticism by the vast majority of Egyptians.
What is going on now is a bare knuckles political brawl over who has the real power. Mursi is pushing the Army here to see how far they will go in striking back. Most likely then he and his allies will make their next move based upon its reaction. There has been speculation of a deal between Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and SCAF. After all the Army did not deploy tanks to block the entrance to parliament after Mursi called them back into session. I am doubtful though. It seems as though Mursi really did take SCAF by surprise and on the wrong foot. Also SCAF knows the power that the Brotherhood can bring to bear against them and would not start something unless fully prepared, and they weren’t.
The coming days will answer many questions about the future of Egypt. One thing is clear though that should have been clear to all of the commentators all along, if they had not been blinded by juvenile ideologies or base stupidity: Muhammad Mursi will not be, or at the very least does not intend to be, a toothless figurehead. The man is a member of an organization (the Muslim Brotherhood) that is fanatically devoted to achieving its goal of restoring Islam and the Arabs to what it sees as their proper place in the world. Now that they have their first taste of real power they are not going to give up this chance without a fight.