Editorial: Egypt's President has taken a big step back

With his decree, Mr Morsi has reversed many gains of the 2011 uprising

Share
Related Topics

President Mohamed Morsi must have set some kind of record for the speed of his descent from hero to villain. Not 48 hours ago, Egypt's President was fielding tributes from all over the world for his adroit and responsible diplomacy. He was credited with brokering the truce that had brought an end to a week of escalating violence between Israel and Gaza. Extravagant hopes were voiced that he had paved the way for a new age of moderating Egyptian influence in the region.

Within hours, all those hopes were dashed – and not because the truce had failed. For all its fragility, it was holding, to the relief of those on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border. No, the reason why such widespread optimism had turned so quickly to indignation in Egypt and something akin to despair abroad was entirely of Mr Morsi's own making.

In what looked like a profoundly misguided attempt to capitalise on his international acclaim at home, the Egyptian President passed a decree in which he gave himself extensive new powers. They include the stipulation that presidential decisions cannot be revoked by anyone, including a judge. The decree also appears to make possible new trials of those already convicted of killings during the 2011 uprising. Those liable to face new court proceedings could include the overthrown President, Hosni Mubarak.

It is hardly necessary to count the ways in which Mr Morsi's move is undesirable and plain wrong. The head of Egypt's lawyers' syndicate stood alongside leading opposition figures to denounce the presidential decree as bringing about "the total execution of the independence of the judiciary". In a colourful phrase, Mohamed ElBaradei accused Mr Morsi of appointing himself Egypt's "new pharaoh". Other critics called the decree "a coup against legitimacy". It is difficult to find fault with any of these descriptions.

By yesterday afternoon, protesters were back on the streets of Cairo. Offices of the Muslim Brotherhood were ablaze in the restless cities of the Nile delta. The favoured slogan was "Morsi is Mubarak", which summed up not only the repressive nature of the President's decree, but the very real dangers it represents, too. If Mr Morsi believed he was establishing a streamlined system of rule with a view to accelerating his country's transition to a modern, post-Mubarak, era, as some of his statements seemed to suggest, he is grievously mistaken.

In the benevolent spotlight Mr Morsi enjoyed following the announcement of the Gaza truce, it was possible to glimpse a new Egypt. An Egypt in which entrenched fears about the nature and intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood were shown to be unfounded. An Egypt able to harness a distinguished tradition of scholarship and diplomacy to build its future. An Egypt ready and able to play a positive and calming role in an unstable region. An Egypt that other powers, starting with the United States, would treat as a partner, with respect. An Egypt whose President had an electoral mandate and whose elected legislature was in the early stages of drafting a constitution. All these changes were seen – inside and outside Egypt – as the hugely positive fruits of the 2011 uprising.

With the presidential decree, much, if not all, of that has been overturned. Any attempt to retry those already convicted turns back the clock needlessly. Television footage of the former President being wheeled into court on a hospital bed do not need to be revisited. Latent suspicion of the Muslim Brotherhood and its intentions will resurface. Until yesterday, the signals from Egypt were mixed, but generally more positive than negative. Now, the balance is decisively reversed. If he wants the new Egypt to flourish, Mr Morsi must reconsider his decree.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower