Mohammed Morsi, President of Egypt, spent his 100th day as president of Egypt in the United States of America at the United Nations General Assembly. Mohammed Morsi was sworn in as president of Egypt on the Saturday 30th June 2012 with much pomp and fanfare.
His electoral victory was a unique moment in the recent history of Egypt. Mohammed 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, Mohammed Morsi took the premier seat in arguably one of the most influential and powerful countries in the region if not the Muslim world.
Both Mohammed Morsi and the MB have now come face-to-face with the real-world challenges faced by any head of state. Many took to the streets to oust Mubarak, many also lost their lives in the process. After 100 days of ruling we are in a position to asses Morsi’s rule and judge if the people’s demands have been fulfilled.
As Morsi and the MB took the reins of power the electoral victory in reality took place in an environment, where the powers of the president were not defined and the nation’s constitution had also not been written. After 100 days in power much of the old system remains intact. Morsi and 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 unify the people behind them and also got the nation to contribute towards their vision of the future.
Since the election victory the MB has gone to great lengths to demonstrate its moderation to the West. Indeed in it rush to placate so called international opinion, they abandoned all pretence to Islamic politics. In doing so, they think they are being pragmatic, smart and politically savvy. When it comes to applying Islamic politics they cite constitutional barriers and the need to keep minorities onside. When it comes to applying Islamic economics, they cite the need to avoid scaring international investors and tourists. When it comes to applying the Islamic foreign policy, they cite the need to show a moderate image and to appease the West.
The biggest challenge that Mosri faced was 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.
Morsi’s strategy for solving this was to officially beg the IMF for a $4.9 billion loan. Egypt’s Prime Minister, Hesham Qandil described the 5 year loan to be paid back with 1.1% rate as a good deal for the country.
The Prime Minister appeared live on Egypt’s state television in a desperate bid to justify the loan by explaining its benefits to the people. However, he was unable to conceal the truth and in his subsequent statement, he contradicted himself and exposed one of IMF’s stipulated conditions, which is to force Morsi’s government to cut spending related to looking after the affairs of the Egyptian people. He said, “It is an Egyptian programme that will work on cutting and spending and adopting certain other measures.”
Fearing backlash, Qandil intentionally chose not to elaborate on the other draconian measures. It is well known that such measures include: increase in taxes, price hikes on essential items, and further loans from other institutions. All of which will make the people suffer immensely and add to their misery. In fact the Financial Times confirmed these measures. On August 22 2012, the paper stated: “The IMF wants Egypt to outline plans to reduce its budget deficit by bolstering revenues and trimming the costly public sector, including fuel and food subsidies. Egypt must also secure financing from other lending institutions as part of the loan terms.”
Morsi made clear in his victory speech that he would honor all of Egypt’s international treaties. No sooner had the dust settled on him assuming power it came to light Morsi had sent a communiqué confirming Egypt’s commitment to peaceful ties with the Israel. In the letter sent to Shimon Peres, President of Israel, Morsi said: “I am looking forward to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle East Peace Process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, including that Israeli people.” Despite vociferous denials by Morsi’s representatives, the letter has turned out to be genuine. The UK’s Guardian reported that Peres’s office said the president’s aides received the official communiqué on July 31st 2012 from the Egyptian ambassador to the Jewish state, both by registered mail and by fax from the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. Furthermore, the paper stated that the fax number which appeared on the faxed letter was registered to the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.
On the back of this in August 2012 the Morsi government decided to send the military to track and eliminate threats of militancy in Sinai. This was after accusing militants of killing 16 border patrol troops on a checkpoint in Sinai near the border with Israel. The killing of Egyptian troops was used as a basis to depose the head of intelligence, the head of military police and the governor of North Sinai. A few weeks later the heads of the SCAF, Tantawi and Sami Annan were also retired.
The removal of these senior generals was proven to not have been an independent affair when the US state department confirmed it knew about the changes within the military establishment before they happened as was reported by a US spokeswoman: “Hilary Clinton knew of ongoing discussions about a new defense team and was told during talks with President Morsi in Cairo last month that the change would be made ‘at an appropriate moment.” Commenting on the new appointed personnel for the defense ministry and army, the US administration said that, “Egypt’s new top military officer is a known commodity in Washington.”
The Morsi government’s extremely heavy handed tactics raised a number of questions. The tactics and heavy weaponry was completely disproportionate to the incident. It was reported by the Associated Press that “Egyptian troops, light tanks, armored vehicles and attack helicopters are pouring into the Sinai desert.” Based on the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979, Sinaiis a demilitarized zone and Egypt is not allowed to bring in military forces and heavy weaponry.
The complete silence by Israel over this affair is very telling. Israel has always made a great fuss about any additions to any forces in Sinai. This is because General Lieutenant Ahmed Ali of the Egyptian forces confirmed in a briefing that “there is co-ordination over the presence of the armed forces in the Sinai territories,” he continued: “I think that there is the understanding that the military operation in Sinai is in the interest of all.” An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity, said there are ongoing communications between the two sides.
Morsi and the MB no longer speak of ‘Islam is the solution.’ Saad al-Husseini, a member of Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party executive bureau said in an interview, that tourism is very important for Egypt and stressed that drinking and selling alcohol are forbidden in Islam. However, he then added, “Yet Islamic laws also prohibit spying on private places and this applies to beaches as well…I wish 50 million tourists would travel to Egypt even if they come nude.”
All pretence to Islam has been conveniently removed from the statements of MB and Morsi. On the economic front it is plainly clear both Morsi and MB have no programme. In the wider region Morsi has no plans to change the status quo, but maintain what his predecessors constructed. The current reality is that the Islamic groups that languished in the torture cells of the likes of Mubarak touting ‘Islam is the solution,’ are now actually holding the Ummah back from Islamic rule.
Mohammad Morsi and the MB should remember when Mubarak protected Western interests rather than his peoples, the Ummah eventually rose up against him and when he 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 a similar fate may await them.