Critics of Egypt’s President may wonder if Mohammed Mursi has let success go to his head, after mediating effectively between Hamas and Israel over Gaza. He has reinforced his own power.
His supporters praised his sacking of a Mubarak-era general prosecutor largely on the principle that he was a pre-revolution leftover. This allows for a retrial of Mursi’s discredited predecessor. But opponents are concerned over the effect of the newly-emboldened leader’s move will have on an assembly drawing up the constitution.
The assembly has been given a two-month extension to get that finished. Mursi won’t let anyone break it up, further delaying a new parliamentary poll.
Opponents want the assembly to be remade. Many liberals, Christians and others have walked out.
They accuse the 70 percent Islamist committee of ignoring their voices over the role Islam will play in the new Egypt. There are deep disagreements, including over rights for minorities and women and freedom of expression. Dissenting Egyptian statesman Amr Moussa protested:
“Here in the Constituent Assembly’s general assembly it is forbidden to discuss any of the articles of the constitution. The final text has to be decided with everyone present, and must be heard by the people of Egypt in publicly broadcast sessions. Those sessions have been closed in the past few days so that the people would not see the huge differences on matters that concern all of society.”
The constitution is supposed to become the cornerstone of democratic transition. Yet earlier this month, thousands of Islamists rallied in Cairo to demand immediate introduction of sharia law. Many waved banners with the words: “God’s law is our constitution”.
Analysts say Mursi has to satisfy Islamist hardliners who voted him into power at the same time as accruing national and international legitimacy. That means juggling pressures for a moderate, modern and civil state with calls for sharia.
According to Mursi, until a new constitution is decreed, the president can issue any decision or measure to protect the revolution – no appeals. To many detractors, that is close to: ‘So let it be written so let it be done’, spoken by a Hollywood Pharaoh Rameses II.