The “Arab Spring” was supposed to be a flowering of democracy in the barren soil of the Middle East, but in Egypt it just replaced the old bought-and-paid-for pro-Western dictator with a considerably less pro-Western Muslim Brotherhood dictator. President Mohammed Morsi had a certain Arab spring in his stride when he seized near-absolute power over the weekend. Protesters sprang right back into their old positions in Tahrir Square.
There was some hope that Morsi would back down on his dictatorial decrees during negotiations with the judiciary on Monday, but it looks like he’s not backing down. As reported by Reuters, the dictator’s “concessions” amounted to not unleashing the Muslim Brotherhood against protesters, and promising that he’d only use absolute power when absolutely necessary:
In a bid to ease tensions with judges outraged at the step, Mursi has assured the country’s highest judicial authority that elements of the decree giving his decisions immunity would apply only to matters of “sovereign” importance. Though that should limit it to issues such as a declaration of war, experts said there was room for a broader interpretation.
In another step to avoid more confrontation, the Muslim Brotherhood cancelled a mass protest it had called in Cairo for Tuesday in support of a decree that has also won the backing of more hardline Islamist groups.
But there has been no retreat on other elements of the decree, including a stipulation that the Islamist-dominated body writing a new constitution be protected from legal challenge.
This is not going down well with Egypt’s very real, but sadly outnumbered, pro-democracy movement. It’s too bad they weren’t given more time to organize before the Muslim Brotherhood took over. But once the Obama Administration roused itself to grow involved in the fall of Mubarak, it insisted on shoving the old boy out the door as quickly as possible. There might not have been any way to “save” the hopelessly corrupt Mubarak from the forces unleashed upon Tahrir Square, but when he talked about an orderly one-year transition out of power, a wiser American foreign policy team would have taken him up on it.
Instead, the dictator who just pronounced himself above judicial restraint merely has to deal with a few lawsuits while he consolidates power:
Its popular legitimacy undermined by the withdrawal of most of its non-Islamist members, the assembly faces a raft of court cases from plaintiffs who claim it was formed illegally.
The new system of government to be laid out in the constitution is one of the issues at the heart of the crisis.
“The president of the republic must put his delusions to one side and undertake the only step capable of defusing the crisis: cancelling the despotic declaration,” liberal commentator and activist Amr Hamzawy wrote in his column in al-Watan newspaper.
“We asked for the cancellation of the decree and that did not happen,” said Mona Amer, spokeswoman for the opposition movement Popular Current, part of a coalition of parties that are joining forces to challenge the Mursi decree.
Good luck running against this Muslim Brotherhood political machine, Egyptian opposition parties! Morsi and his apologists claim they’re just trying to implement “reforms” to clean up the mess left by his predecessor. That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?
Speaking of the Obama Administration, the normally loquacious President and his Secretary of State have apparently been stunned into silence by this turn of events. The day before Morsi’s power grab, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were patting him on the back for his role as “peacemaker” in the Gaza Strip conflict. They vanished in a puff of smoke when the peacemaker slipped on his pharaoh’s robes, and haven’t been heard from since. You would think those famed liberals would have stern criticism for a Maximum Leader who rules by decree, teaches his fervent supporters to view political opponents as bitter enemies, and challenges the judiciary’s right to interfere with his edicts. Oh, wait…