27 November 2012, 10:51

Morsi's grab for power

Morsi's grab for power
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Christian Wolff, an expert in Egypt at the Nurnberg University in Germany, taks on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's decree that placed his decisions above judicial review

I wouldn’t fully agree to this because it is more or less something like a negotiation process between those groups that are now in power and those old groups, like the military and old economic elites and those young revolutionaries from the Tahrir Square – and they are now kind of negotiating in this and that way about how to develop Egypt.

So, what are the chances of Mr. Morsi in these negotiations?

I think he is in a bit difficult situation because he has to face the area of tensions, more or less because there are these young revolutionaries who fought in this revolutionary process and then there are these old guards, they kind of separated into what I called before the economic elites and this military group. And he has to give the military what belongs to them, for example their benefits and economic reasons, and he needs to secure that Egypt does not fall back behind the situation of 2011. So, he is a bit in conflicting situation and this decree he made can be interpreted in certain ways. On the one hand it is very-very problematic but on the other hand it is a kind of reaction of Morsi against the disturbances coming from the legal testament, from the old elites.

In fact it looks like some kind of mobilization effort.

Yes, he tries to see how much he can get on the street, and he now sees that he will face a tough opposition. And I don’t think that he will stay in his strong position he gave himself with this last decree.

So, it is some kind of test exercise?

More or less, something like this. You need to keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood made some experiences with revolutions in Egypt. For example in 1952 and 1954 they were part of the revolution and after a while became the subject to strong repressions from the regime. So, the MB has to strengthen their position and they don’t want to be repressed once again.

Absolutely! But how about the position of the Egyptian MB vis-à-vis the recent clash between Israel and Hamas?

Well, the point is – the MB is no longer the only wealthy opposition within the group of political Islam in Egypt. So, they became more or less a group of mainstream political Islam and this mainstream political Islam has a broad range from a more moderate side to a more radical side of political Islamists. And now the MB has to couple with the problem that the Salafist movement is coming from the very radical right side and the MB has to kind of accept Israel and has to accept the peace treaty. But they have to say – well, we accept it but we do not accept Israel as a whole, but just the current situation, we accept this.

But this is an unusual political subtlety, I’d say.

It is difficult for them because they are no longer an opposition. They can no longer say – well, let’s talk harsh about Israel and let’s talk harsh about this or that – they have to make politics now. And as we witnessed during the Israel-Gaza conflict Morsi came in and negotiated not peace but…


Truth, yes. So, he faced real politics now because if he would not negotiate between Israel and Gaza the US would kind of cut their money to Egypt and this would be very-very difficult for the Egyptian President.

It is very interesting, Mr. Wolff, the way the former opposition movements, even – shall we say – quasi-radical movements are transformed as soon as they into the politics.

Well, they have to face the reality and that’s kind of a problem. And there is also the problem with this decree of Morsi because Morsi gave himself more powers than Mubarak had before. So, this is more or less very dangerous. And I’m not quite sure if he can handle this amount of power and if he is able to hold it for a longer time.

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