Egypt’s president has failed to live up to his promises to fix the country’s pressing problems, but he is making sure the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the state apparatus. PHOTO: REUTERS Mohamed Morsi, while candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood for president of Egypt, made many promises.
For example, he would launch Project Renewal, or Nahda, the brainchild of the Brothers and get the country back on track. But one promise captured the imagination: “Only elect me, he declared over and over again, and within 100 days I shall get rid of the five-most vexing issues affecting the Egyptian people: personal security, out-of-control traffic paralyzing the roads, the shortage of subsidized bread, insufficient supply of cooking gas and gasoline, and mounts of garbage throughout the country.”
When he was elected, independent papers duly set up a so-called “Morsi- Meter” to keep track of the implementation of that particular promise.
When October 8 – the 100th day of his presidency – came, they reported that there was little or nothing to show for it. A street poll carried the day before showed that 57 percent of the people were dissatisfied with Morsi’s actions.
Yet on October 6 during the commemoration of the Egyptian “victory” in the 1973 October War (the Yom Kippur War), the president boasted that he had achieved 65% of his objectives: Volunteers from the Brotherhood’s youth wing had collected garbage everywhere, thousands of drivers had been fined and 500 criminals had been arrested. It wasn’t all that impressive but the pro-government press hailed him nevertheless. However, the official Information and Decision Support Center admitted that not much had been achieved in the first 100 days.
The president had not kept his word on these five points, but that was not his only broken promise. He had also pledged to appoint a woman and a Copt as vice presidents but did not do it. Of course, a year ago the Muslim Brothers had said that they would only field candidates for 30% of parliamentary seats, and would not have a candidate for the presidency – and then they fought for every seat and of course launched their presidential candidate.
Immediately after his election Morsi said he was going to dissolve the Constituent Assembly where too many Islamists had been appointed in violation of the constitution, and replace it with an assembly where all currents would be represented.
That did not happen. The Constituent Assembly is now near completion of a very Islamic constitution that the people will be asked to ratify by referendum – unless the five appeals to the Supreme Constitutional Court are accepted and the Assembly is dissolved with retroactive effect. A demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is scheduled for Friday to demand that Morsi account for his failures.
So what did Morsi do during these 100 days? According to the independent El-Dostour – “the Constitution” – daily newspaper, he traveled a lot, visiting eight countries in Asia, Europe and Africa and New York for the UN Assembly – but only four of the 27 governorates of Egypt.
He took 29 decisions, none of which dealt with the dire state of the economy and deepening poverty. He prayed in 12 mosques in Cairo, to the great inconvenience of the faithful because of the stringent security precautions, and he came with an entourage of no fewer than 30 cars, reminding people per force of the erstwhile rais (Hosni Mubarak) now languishing in jail. He made 51 speeches for a total of 30 hours.
El-Dostour adds that he only grants interviews to American papers and that his words are recorded ahead of time. El-Wafd, the paper of the political party of that name, claims that during these first 100 days Morsi did not address any of the critical issues – education, poverty, health. According to the paper the situation is so bad that there are people who sell their kidneys – and even their children.
There have never been so many suicides.
Yet the government is preparing austerity measures and wants to cut subsidies on essentials.
All the president is interested in, according to El-Wafd, is what they call the “Ikhwanization” – from “Ikwan,” “Brothers, of all state apparatus – the education system, governors of the provinces, judges, ministries and even NGO such as the Organization for Human Rights. Last week, the president replaced the head of the Central Agency for Organization and Administration, the country’s administrative watchdog.
Last but not least he pardoned 26 Islamic militants judged and sentenced by the former regime for terrorist operations such as the Luxor massacre in 1997, when 62 people, mostly tourists, were killed.
There is a growing sense of dissatisfaction.
A year ago, people voted massively for the Brotherhood, the only organized political force. By the time the presidential election was held, enthusiasm had begun to wane and Morsi was elected with 25% of the votes – but with abstention at a record 50%.
Educated Egyptians know only too well that the Brotherhood’s ultimate goal is to impose Islamic law – the Shari’a – and to prepare the restoration of the caliphate. As for the army that ruled the country from the fall of Mubarak to the presidential election, it is quite likely that it had concluded a secret deal with the Brotherhood, perceived as the only force able to prevent anarchy. Whatever the case, there is today a painful awakening.
One of the leaders of the Organization for Human Rights, Nagad Burai, a lawyer, said: “It is still too early after only three months to judge accurately actions undertaken by Morsi. However, it is obvious that he has no vision and that his decisions are taken haphazardly with no overall planning.”
Alaa Al Aswany, the popular author whose The Yacoubian Building brought him international recognition, demands that Morsi be confronted with what is happening: Police officers are still routinely abusing detainees, independent papers and media are being made to close down, while the pro-government press hails the leader. “It is as if nothing had changed, in Egypt after the revolution bar the name of the president: Mubarak is gone, now we have Morsi,” he says.
Not that the president cares. He is devoting his energy to foreign policy where success is easier to come by. Foreign trips and carefully crafted speeches have resulted in very good press coverage and allow him to claim he has restored Egypt to its rightful place. He condemns Bashar Assad in Syria and supports the rebels there (mostly Muslim Brothers and Salafis), works hard to create an Islamic bloc (so far he is not doing too well) and boasts that Egypt is the undisputed leader of the Arab world. What he tends to forget is that by distancing himself from the United States and from Israel, he is jeopardizing his hopes of getting the massive international assistance his country desperately needs to get out of the abyss.
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.