Mohamed Morsi: the Egyptian opposition charge sheet

Egypt’s president stands accused of failing to govern democratically and being autocratic and incompetent

Egypt’s president insists he was legitimately elected last summer in a democratic poll that was considered by most observers to be free and fair. Mohamed Morsi won 52% of the vote against 48% for Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force commander who was seen as a counter-revolutionary candidate representing the deposed Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi famously promised to rule “for all Egyptians”. But opponents complain that he has not governed democratically or effectively and has been autocratic and incompetent. Issues on which he has faced criticism include:

Muslim Brotherhood
Hostility to Egypt’s best organised political movement (slogan: The Qur’an is our Constitution) has grown along with charges that Morsi, a veteran Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member, has tried to “Brotherhoodise” state institutions. There has been angry questioning of the role of Khairat al-Shater, a powerful Brotherhood leader who was disqualified from running for president. “Down with the rule of the Murshid” (the MB’s guide) is a common protest slogan. Morsi aggravated the situation when he appointed seven governors from the Brotherhood and one from the Gamaa Islamiyya, the extremist group responsible for a notorious massacre at Luxor in 1997.

Brotherhood influence over the media has grown. “Egyptians have ended their love affair with political Islam,” says the political analyst Dina Hamdy. There has been an increase in violence against Christians and sectarian incitement linked to the Syria crisis, which includes the murder of four Shias.

Morsi is seen as too keen to avoid upsetting hardline Salafist fundamentalists. Critics dislike the MB’s close relations with the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s already bad economic situation has worsened during Morsi’s year in power. With the approach of the Ramadan holiday and rising summer temperatures power cuts, petrol shortages and soaring food prices have brought the crisis into millions of homes.

Investors and tourists are staying away. Foreign currency reserves have fallen by more than half since Mubarak was ousted. The government’s weakness prevents it from taking decisive action, which allows the situation to get worse. That in turn causes more discontent.

The government has spent months negotiating a $4.8bn loan on relatively easy terms from the IMF. But if agreement is reached it will mean slashing subsidies for energy, oil, rice and bread – a politically damaging step that is likely to further enrage the public. Inflation is shortly expected to hit double digits. News of the military’s ultimatum to Morsi on Monday caused a surge in share prices on the Cairo stock exchange.

The 22 November bombshell
Morsi’s single most polarising decision was the constitutional decrees that sacked the prosecutor-general, immunised presidential decisions from judicial review and shielded the Islamist-dominated Shura council and the constituent assembly from dissolution.

That was a month before a referendum on a new constitution that leaned towards Islamist and conservative positions. Opponents called it a naked power-grab. Supporters argued that it was necessary to resist a conspiracy against newly established institutions.

The way the constitution was written was seen as a glaring example of unilateral and divisive action. Morsi is generally criticised for failing to build consensus, though allies blame this on an shambolic and fragmented opposition that has been unwilling to co-operate and is demanding his departure.

There is also anger at the way he tends to paint opponents as felool, or old-regime remnants. “The Muslim Brotherhood insisted on a winner-takes-all approach and failed to give the opposition credible and meaningful concessions,” argues Khaled Fahmy of Cairo University, cataloguing some of what he calls Morsi’s seven deadly sins.

Justice and human rights
Opponents say Morsi has failed to fulfil election pledges to reform the security sector – police, intelligence services and paramilitary forces – pillars of the pre-revolutionary state. On the contrary, he has made several supportive statements, most notably after the Port Said police massacre in January during which 30 people were killed in a few hours.

The effect has been to embolden the police to continue Mubarak-era practices such as torture and murder in police stations. No serious action has been taken to try officers accused of torture. Not a single officer accused of killing more than 800 demonstrators in 2011 has been convicted. Watchdogs say human rights have deteriorated alarmingly.

The larger complaint is that Morsi has failed to uphold democratic values and treated his election victory as a licence to rule unchallenged. A draft NGO law will allow the state to control civil society. Spurious cases have been pursued against journalists and activists. Cairo-based writer Abdel-Rahman Hussein, says the fundamental problem with Morsi’s rule is: “Never making a single concession ever, remaining intransigent at all times, never (being) inclusive. Ignoring the Egyptian people … and their grievances until the street protests grew and grew to the biggest crowds seen in the past two years.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds