Mohamed Morsi was sworn in as the president of Egypt on Saturday 30th June 2012.
This was a unique moment in the recent history of Egypt for a number of reasons. Firstly Morsi was elected by the people, something none of his predecessors can claim. He is also the first civilian leader in the country’s recent history. His party the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has been working for change for over eight decades, Mohamed Morsi now takes the premier seat in arguably one of the most influential and powerful countries in the region if not the Muslim world.
Both Mohamed Morsi and the MB now come face-to-face with the real-world challenges faced by any head of state. Since his victory in the presidential elections much has been written regarding how much power the president actually has. This is one of the many issues Mohamed Morsi and the MB will have to navigate. Morsi and the MB find themselves in positions similar to Vladamir Putin and the United Russia party in 1998 and Recip Tayyib Erdogan and the AKP party in 2002 in Turkey. Both parties and leaders emerged as political unknowns, weak in the face of strong and dominant Armed Forces and business class. In the case of Russia the new business class – oligarchs, were looting the nation.
As the dust settles on Morsi’s inauguration he and the MB face similar challenges to Putin and Erdogan in consolidating power and charting a new course for the people. Whilst at Khilafah.com we have been sceptical about the way forward chartered by Morsi and the MB based on the number of contradictory statements and compromises already made, the deen is naseehah:
“The deen is naseehah,” the people asked to whom, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم replied; “to Allah and to his book, to his messenger and the leaders of the ummah and to the people.” Buhkhari
This article will outline the key issues the MB and Morsi will face and some advice and suggestions on the way forward.
Whilst power has been achieved, in reality the MB and Morsi have very little. This will mean they will never be able to make key decisions and when things go wrong they will be blamed by the army. Prior to any policy decisions the MB and Morsi need to sort out 3 key strategic issues, which will shape every other policy:
1. The MB need to stop operating from a position of weakness. Since the uprising began in January 2011, the MB won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections and the presidency, the army has actually had to cede some of their influence. The MB however have not operated from this position of strength, but compromised with anything and everything to ensure they remain in power. The MB will never rule effectively if they operate from a position of weakness and they will never be able to counter the influence of the army with such a mentality.
2. The MB have not presented any grand vision for the country. It has used slogans such as ‘Islam is the solution,’ which it has now dropped, however what has been notably absent is where they plan to take the people and exactly how they plan to enrich the nation .All great powers and strong leaders historically had grand visions which they used to unifie the people behind them and also got the nation to contribute towards their vision of the future. Without such a grand vision Egypt will remain a fractured nation and will be unable to move in one direction.
3. There is no strategy to weaken the armies hold on power and this will be the MB’s Achilles heel if not dealt with. The army runs the country and will weaken the MB’s ability to rule. Its influence and role in the country needs to be weakened and an alternative role found if the MB are to ever rule the country effectively.
Dealing with the army
The Egyptian military since Nasser rose to power has shaped the country ensuring they remained the real rulers. The Egyptian president has always been the head of the army.
Egyptians send their sons to serve in the military, they drive on roads built by military engineers, and they own televisions and kitchen appliances made at military production plants. When Wheat prices shot up several years ago, army bakeries delivered cheap bread to millions of families and when electricity supplies were strained last summer, the armed force’s power plants helped keep the lights on in major cities.
Similarly the majority of Egypt’s regional governors are retired army officers. Many of the big civilian institutions and public sector corporations are run by former generals. The country’s three main land-developing authorities (agricultural, urban and tourism) are headed by former military officers who, in addition to their pensions, receive lucrative salaries and perks associated with their civilian jobs. The army would for obvious reasons want to maintain such a position and that is why it has supported the US in its aims in the region in return for annual military aid.
The army’s interference in the running of the country and its disproportionate influence is the problem which both Mohamed Morsi and the MB need to tackle. There are a few possibilities in attempting to weaken the army:
1. The army’s leader has always been the defence minister in the cabinet, which in reality should be a civilian role, as is the case with all countries. This should be countered by Morsi, as defence production, military sales and purchases will not be in the hands of the army.
2. The military is currently run by a junta of 21 senior officers, who ousted Mubarak and have made themselves the rulers of the country. The SCAF is composed of soldiers who should have retired a long time ago. Due to them not retiring a generational gap has evolved in the military as younger officers have been unable to gain promotions. The current crop of generals are loyal to the US and need to be replaced with younger officers who are loyal to the civilian leadership.
3. Morsi could counter the armies role in the country by arming a new police force, which is loyal to him and giving them wide powers in removing the army’s interests from the different strata’s of the county. This is a similar strategy used by Erdogan of Turkey.
4. The role of the army should be changed to achieve a grand vision. This vision should be none other than reunification with the rest of the Muslim world. This will keep the army busy with external issues and away from domestic interference. This will also strengthen Morsi as for the moment the army view him as a weak leader that can be used.
Egypt was for long dominated by the military and the secret service in daily life. This architecture left many unemployed and led to many to turn to factions, elites and clans in order to maintain any semblance of decency in the country. The challenge Mosri and the MB face is creating a level playing field internally, which will create social cohesion and which will lead the position of Morsi being much stronger. In order to achieve this, the following policies could be pursued:-
1. The MB should have already had an adopted constitution written and used this as a basis to rule the country. Without doing this, what the MB stands for is not clear and the army will in reality impose a constitution which will strengthen itself rather than the country. As the MB won a landslide victory in the parliament, although now dissolved and the presidency – a clear mandate to rule by Islam, an Islamic constitution should be drawn up. After this it would be debated by the country and maybe even disagreed upon with some elements in the country. This debate will allow the MB to shift the discussion to which specific articles should be in the Islamic constitution and thus would have made having an Islamic constitution the public opinion in the country and would have silenced the secularists. This would also give confidence to the nation that the MB can rule as they have general principals in the form of a constitution in order to develop detailed polices. As the principles the MB stand for would have been clearly aired, this would have left no room for compromise as this would be a flagrant disregard for what they stand for.
2. The current situation prevalent in the Muslim world where ruling families decide the laws that society must abide by whilst they remain above the very laws they have created, this is just the other side of the democratic coin. A direct consequence of people making the laws. Whether laws are developed collectively, through consensus or by a monarch it is inevitable that a tiny segment of society will legislate for themselves.
In Islam Allah سبحانه وتعالى is sovereign as explained in the Qur’an:
إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّه
“The rule is for none but Allah” (An-Anam:56)
This means all laws need to be derived from the Islamic sources which are the Qur’an, Sunnah, Ijma Sahabah and Qiyas. All this ensures that society is aware of the laws it will be judged by, which cannot be changed at a whim, this ensures that a multiple tier society does not develop, where different laws apply to different segments of society. It also ensures the elites cannot influence the laws. Thus legislating should take place in a way where what is right or wrong remains fixed and cannot be changed at a whim.
3. Money and politics should be completely separated as Islamic governance obliges, this will deal with the corruption that plagues the country. Anyone in government should have a fixed wage especially the ruler himself and this should be determined by the people.
4. The powers of Morsi should in reality be restricted by the establishment of a Majlis al-Ummah. This is an elected council whose members can be Muslim, non-Muslim, men or women. These members represent the interests of their constituencies within the country. The Majlis should have no powers of legislation like in a democratic system but have many powers that act as a counterbalance to the executive powers of the ruler. These should include expressing dissatisfaction with officials and in this matter the view of the Majlis view should is binding and the ruler must discharge them at once.
The biggest challenge facing Morsi and the MB is the economy. Today Egypt has an economy worth $168 billion, almost entirely driven by agriculture, media, petroleum exports and tourism. Its services industry constitutes 49% of the economy.
The problem with the Egyptian economy is the fact that an elite few control it. When elites control an economy, they use their power to create monopolies and block the entry of new people and firms. This is how Egypt worked for three decades under Hosni Mubarak. The government and military own vast swaths of the economy — by some estimates, as much as 40%. Even when they did “liberalize,” they privatized large parts of the economy right into the hands of Mubarak’s friends and those of his son Gamal. Big businessmen close to the regime, such as Ahmed Ezz (iron and steel), the Sawiris family (multimedia, beverages, and telecommunications), and Mohamed Nosseir (beverages and telecommunications) received not only protection from the state but also government contracts and large bank loans. Together, these big businessmen their stranglehold on the economy created astronomical profits for regime insiders, but blocked opportunities for the vast mass of Egyptians to move out of poverty. Meanwhile, the Mubarak family accumulated a vast fortune estimated as high as $70 billion.
Egypt’s economy needs to be restructured away from services and towards agriculture and industry. This will make the nation self-sufficient, remove foreign dependency, create jobs and stimulate the wider economy. In order to achieve this, the following plans can and should be perused:
1. The government in Egypt spends more than 60% of the revenue it collects in debt repayments. This amounts to over 120 billion Egyptian pounds annually. This government expenditure needs to be removed, eliminating illegal expenditure such as interest debt repayments and focussing the remaining funds on the critical needs of the country. A significant burden on government resources would be removed immediately by the cessation of payments on interest based loans.
2. The Shari’ah makes it illegal for an individual or company or group of companies to seek to corner the market in a product and then use this position to inflate prices. The Morsi government should investigate and prosecute those attempting to monopolise the market and break up existing monopolies.
3. Agriculture should be mechanized. Egypt has over 3 million hectares of arable land, which is more than enough to supply Egypt’s population given the appropriate high yield technology. This will also bring in significant taxes for central government.
4. In modern times, Egypt shifted its agricultural base to produce cotton, a crop whose demand for high temperatures, solar input and water supplies are uniquely suited to Egypt. Cotton supplied the country with additional income streams, but at a huge cost: Every hectare of land that is dedicated to cotton is one not dedicated to Wheat. As cotton output increased, Egypt imported more and more food. Today roughly 60% of the country’s wheat requirements are imported. Feeding the domestic population rather than exporting should be Morsi’s number one aim.
5. Egypt has around 4.4 billion barrels of proven oil reserves coupled with 2.1 trillion cubic metres of proven gas reserves. This should be used to kick start an industrial drive.
6. Egypt’s geography is unique in that all its population live in only 30,000 sq km out of 1 million sq km. This population, due to the climate live in a strip running down the center of the country. Further cities should be constructed on the coast with the Red Sea, this will lead to a construction boom and stimulate numerous related industries. These coastal towns should be linked from a transport perspective with the river Nile thus linking the whole nation together. This will then allow the nation to look for off-shore oil and gas in the Red Sea and will also link it to international sea lanes. All of this will create jobs and led to economic growth.
7. Islam’s economic distributive model rather than the Western capitalist free market should be implemented straight away. This will mean wealth distribution rather than economic growth will be the priority. Islam achieves this by removing all obstacles to wealth distribution such as interest, reducing taxes down to a few, the implementation of the gold standard and the removal of speculative financial markets.
The grand vision Morsi and the MB should always have had and now should be implementing is the Islamic obligation of reunifying the Muslim world. This is the grand vision the Egyptian army should be tasked with and the only way to rid the country of US dependency.
Morsi should immediately work to reunify both Libya and Sudan who Egypt shares borders with. Libya since the fall of Gaddafi has turned into a battlefield between competing tribes, clans and militias. The west abandoned the country after the removal of Gaddafi like it abandoned Afghanistan after the soviet occupation ended. Many from Libya called for Egyptian intervention when they were launching the uprising against Gaddafi. With the size of the Egyptian army this is easily achievable and will allow for synergies as Egypt can provide food and agriculture to Libya, which it has a shortage of, whilst Libya can provide Egypt with energy, which Libya has immense reserves of. Sudan and Egypt were once one nation until the destruction of the Khilafah and has ever since been the battleground between western powers. Western powers have been able to use the weak central governments neglect of its people to interfere which ultimately led to the creation of South Sudan.
After this unification with Algeria and Tunisia should be launched. This strategy of reunification will end any dependency on the US.
Morsi should also begin the development of an indigenous defence industry in order to provide security to his people, create jobs and create an image of strength globally. The Egyptian army, air force and navy now field a wide range of the mostly sophisticated Western arms. Egypt continues to be a major recipient of US foreign military aid, which it uses to acquire largely US made military equipment as part of its bid to modernise its armed forces. The latest acquisition of M1-A1 Abrams tanks is an example of this. Egypt boasts what is for the region extensive manufacture of military equipment, however, it still has no armaments design industry to speak of its defence industry remains largely dependent on co-production deals, again, primarily with the US.
To overcome this Egypt needs to use its influential position in the Middle East in ensuing technology and skills are transferred. It should stop procuring US military equipment, with no skills transfer. Expatriate Egyptians working abroad should be recalled to kick start the industrial drive and those technical skills not available should be procured from friendly nations, in return for Natural gas if necessary.
The MB’s candidate is now in power and they are now ruling over the people. They made many promises in the campaign to field a candidate and the public are expecting them to deliver. As the MB are now rulers they will be held to account to what they promised and now they are in power they have the ability to implement what the public put them in power for. Mohamed Morsi and the MB should remember when Mubarak didn’t relinquish his position the Ummah came onto the streets and challenged him, eventually leading to his demise. If the MB fail to deliver they should remember how Mubarak lost power.