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Morsi changes his tune

August 15, 2012

Egypt’s president, Muhammad Morsi’s, big reshuffle on Sunday raised plenty of red flags. In a rather quick swoop, the president-elect sacked two top SCAF officials, Field-Marshal Muhammad Hussein Tantawi and deputy General Sami Enan, and appointed a new vice-president, Mahmoud Mekki. This was all done surprisingly without the verbal ire of SCAF or the judicial system that once put in doubt whether Morsi’s would be able to preside over his own country.

But what do Morsi’s zealous and over-confident actions mean for a post-revolutionary Egypt, especially one that needs direction?  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good.

Mekki’s announcement as vice president was a beneficial move for Mr Morsi. A historically outspoken critic of Hosni Mubarak, and a former judge, the newly appointed official has friends in the judicial circles. But Mr Mekki is neither a woman nor a Coptic Christian—a fact that may foreshadow things to come.

As recently as the end of June, Morsi insisted that he would appoint a female vice president and a Coptic vice president. Instead, Egypt got Mekki, whose appointment looked like an opportunity for Morsi to wield the might of the Muslim Brotherhood. But even if he does appoint a woman and Coptic Christian to vice presidency, there is little evidence to suggest that the three vice presidents wouldn’t be more than a miniature confessional system to appease factions in society. Morsi’s new administration has done little to protect or grant rights to women and minority groups, let alone integrate them into the larger political system.

From the presidential palace to the Arab street, the situation doesn’t look any brighter. On Monday, the Egyptian Print Censorship Authority banned imports of “A History of the Modern Middle East”, a history book that had been used regularly in the country’s colleges. The government provided no reason for the ban. Meanwhile, the media landscape is showing the tell-tale signs of the beginning of a long struggle between government and journalists. Last week, the Freedom and Justice Party was accused of attacking Khaled Salah, editor-in-chief of Youm7 newspaper, during a protest against critics of the president, in front of a media complex in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood provided defensive statements, denying involvement in the attacks, while Morsi stayed silent.

The actions of Morsi’s administration and the Muslim Brotherhood seem to undermine the big task ahead: to rule a rather diverse country, with barely 51% voter support, and not do what the preceding ruler did. Instead, Egypt’s civil society is—once again—starting to feel the strong hold of the man on top.

Perhaps, a bit of a history lesson to just 2010 will help Egypt’s president remember he has to balance a precarious situation. The Muslim Brotherhood should know better than any other group that silencing breeds discontent.


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