This morning, it became clear that President Morsi considers the Army communique to be akin to a coup (communique akin to a coup). This is not entirely surprising. The President appears to have the type of personality and employ a style of governance that suggests anything not his own is some sort of foreign conspiracy.
The irony in this case is that Morsi is now relying on American support to prevent a military coup – at least this is what has been claimed. In reality, that situation is even less clear. Khaled Fahmy, in a scathing bit recently called out Ambassador Anne Patterson for misrepresenting the scale of discontent and overplaying the President’s desire to actually offer meaningful concessions. But it is not clear where American interests lie in the eyes of President Obama.
During Mubarak’s tenure, he was loathe to break away. Apparently several key regime officials had staunchly argued for that policy. But whatever one’s distaste for the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP – either because they are Islamists or Muslim, or because they seem to be incompetent – displacing elected leadership seems unlikely to be the moment President Obama would opt for decisiveness.
And both extremes in Egypt are increasingly acting like infants with no sense of scope. I suppose were an infant capable of such cognition, they would cry on watching their candy stolen from them. But at a certain point in this contagious process, everyone’s crying and nobody has candy. President Morsi, who like SCAF and the last days of Mubarak and Suleiman has relied on threats of shadowy foreign conspiracies, has now put all his eggs in that basket. For those of us whose personal safety was affected by those rumors, it’s a little difficult not to feel a sense of schadenfreude.
But there are several broader issues at stake here. On the face of it, the military’s suggestion to abrogate the constitution is not unreasonable. Lawmakers notoriously passed an election law that did not follow the guidelines of the constitution written by some of the same people. And when the lower house of parliament was dissolved by court decision, the President attempted to usurp additional constitutional authority. I wrote about this a little – though not much – more in a previous post. But shortly, it is nearly impossible for any serious observer to believe that the President or most if not all prominent FJP lawmakers have any real understanding of Egyptian constitutionalism. But the 1971 Constitution, for instance, was not bad. Passing a new constitution, I agreed with a staunch revolutionary once, was more about a symbolic transition.
And there is another angle that is very interesting. Presuming the Presidency’s announcement that it was not aware of the announcement prior, then people’s perception of it as a threat against Morsi and the FJP is justified. I think, personally, the jubilant opposition will be again covering their balls shortly. But factions and politicians in this context seem to have the foresight of a goat and the memory of a fruit fly.
Still, this does suggest that my original inclination regarding the ‘forced retirement’ of Anan and Tantawi in favor of al-Sisi was not undertaken with considerable military complicity. Many if not most believed this was an orchestrated fait accompli orchestrated to prevent their prosecution. I think, reinforced by recent events, that I hold to my original position. Morsi may have pushed them out under agreement with a newer guard. And the old guard is probably maneuvering for at least some revenge – even if merely humiliation. And Anan’s resignation in that respect is not surprising. But for many others who assumed a greater level of complicity, this probably should change some calculations.
In particular, it is probably wrong to think of Morsi as some sort of dictator. Dictators, at least in Rome, were elected but they had absolute power – and for life. Morsi is gradually having his back hair planed off through the bureaucratic friction he has inherited. And he has also stoked this by virtue of an abrasive style and by simply being an outsider. The real problem is that many of the people calling for his ouster and the return of the military are probably mostly upset because of the military’s economic and political domination. And it seems, at least as of yesterday, that domination has continued more or less unabated.