Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s dismissal of top generals and issuance of a Constitutional Declaration granting him executive and legislative powers has raised questions about the intentions of the new leader and the Islamists who support him.
Mr. Morsi resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party almost immediately after his election as president, but his history with the Islamic group is fueling fears of Islamist rule in Egypt. According to The BBC, “The move is seen by some analysts as an attempt by Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood to suppress the opposition.”
Blogger Nadine Mansour says that President Morsi’s decisions give him ‘quasi-dictatorial powers,’ and that he will need to prove that he is willing to relinquish them. The Atlantic Wire also considers the possibility that Mr. Morsi may have made himself Egypt’s newest dictator.
In what many called a shrewd political decision, the president forced the retirement of Defense Chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) who served as de facto head of state following the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak. Mr. Morsi also reversed SCAF’s move revoking most of his presidential powers, and assumed the right to appoint who will draft the next constitution.
In addition, the president exercised authority over the media, replacing the editors at state-run news agencies and raising concerns he may be following the same path as Mubarak. Authorities also removed editions of the privately-owned Al-Dustour from newsstands for ‘fueling sedition’ and insulting the president, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency. Al-Dustour published an article warning of an Islamist takeover and advising Egyptians to ban together with the military. The journalists responsible for these articles are now to be tried for incitement.
Analyst Eric Trager writes that “Based on the evidence to date, Egypt’s president will use his expanded power to advance the Muslim Brotherhood’s radically intolerant domestic agenda.”
Others argue that Mr. Morsi is merely assuming his rightful presidential duties.
Analyst and popular blogger Issandr El Amrani says that President Morsi’s decision effectively “gets rid of what was an untenable form of direct military rule and empowers an elected civilian president.”
That position is echoed by former Egyptian presidential candidate Abdullah al-Ashaal, who told the Voice of America’s Mohamed Elshinnawi in an interview that Mr. Morsi is merely attempting to take on his true role as president.
Al-Ashaal also argues that fears of an Islamist takeover are unfounded.
“We have some factions in Egyptian society who opposed the election of Mr. Morsi. They are afraid the ‘Ikhwanization’ of the Egyptian administration will be a part of the program, but I feel that…practicing sovereignty and ‘Ikhwanization,’ or [imposing] the Muslim Brotherhood on the administration, are two different things.”
President Morsi’s administration is still untested. He has yet to name all his vice presidents, and the constitution has not yet been written. These developments could offer greater insight into whether Egypt’s new leader is using his newly-claimed power to the Muslim Brotherhood’s advantage or whether he is exercising rightful presidential authority after months of de facto military rule.
Delaney Chambers is a junior reporter and intern at Voice of America. A graduate student in Political Communication at American University, her interest in the Middle East stems from a year spent in Egypt and Syria, where she witnessed the beginnings of the two countries' respective revolutions. With over eight years of journalism experience in the US and UK, she is contributing her regional and linguistic expertise to VOA, Middle East Voices and our social media outlets.