The Morsi trial cannot distract attention from Egypt’s economic problems

In no small part, Mr Morsi’s unpopularity stemmed from his failure to tackle economic problems from joblessness to inflation

Share

If Egypt’s military government was looking for a sideshow to distract attention from problems elsewhere, then the circus at Cairo’s police academy yesterday certainly provided it. Indeed, such were the theatrics at the trial of Egypt’s ousted Islamist President, on charges of inciting violence, that proceedings barely got started before they were adjourned.

First, the hearing was delayed because Mohamed Morsi’s refusal to recognise the authority of the court stretched to a refusal to wear the required prison uniform. Then his repeated interruptions – “this is not a legitimate trial, this trial is part of the coup” – and the chanting of “illegal, illegal” by his 14 co-defendants, proved unendurable and matters were put off until January. Out on the streets, the last-minute change of venue, aimed at avoiding mass demonstrations, was only partially successful.

It is difficult not to concede Mr Morsi’s point. Unpopular or not, he was still democratically elected. Not only was his toppling in July a coup; what has followed gives little cause for optimism. More than 2,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed in clashes with security forces, the organisation’s activities have been banned, and the state-backed media has gone into overdrive whipping up anti-Morsi and anti-US sentiment in equal measure. With freedoms increasingly restricted, dissenters harassed, and the military back on top, Egypt feels uncomfortably as if it has reverted to pre-Arab Spring type, albeit without Hosni Mubarak.

General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi et al must do much to live up to the claim that their actions were not an attack on their country’s embryonic democracy. The former President’s trial must be conducted with all possible transparency. The temptation to crack down on political opponents must be resisted. And the promised return to the ballot box must be expedited.

If all goes to plan, Egypt will have a new constitution by December, and a referendum to approve it shortly thereafter. Elections, parliamentary and presidential, will follow towards the middle of the year. The timetable is certainly an ambitious one; and the positive noises from the US at the weekend say more about Washington’s keenness to mend fences with a key regional ally than about actual progress.

There is every reason to hurry, though; and not just to restore political legitimacy. In no small part, Mr Morsi’s unpopularity stemmed from his failure to tackle economic problems from joblessness to inflation. His removal raised expectations of speedy improvements and supporters of the coup are already growing impatient. The charges against Mr Morsi, with more than a whiff of the show trial about them, are in part an effort to buy time. But that will not be enough. Egypt is crying out for structural reforms to free up its economy and improve its citizens’ lives. Until then, its politics will remain unstable, repressive, or both.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect