Egyptian President Takes Office and Aims to Restore Parliament
July 2, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
Mohamed Morsi officially took office as Egypt’s fifth president on June 30 in a modest ceremony before the Supreme Constitutional Court. According to Al Jazeera, Morsi had wished to take his oath in parliament, in accordance with the interim constitution. Morsi’s visit to Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the previous evening was more symbolic than the state ceremony.
President Morsi addressed thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square on June 29. According to the New York Times, he referred to himself as the “source of legitimacy” and said, “Everyone hears me, all the people and the cabinet and the government, army, police. There is no authority over this authority. You have the power!” Morsi, a 60-year-old engineering professor with little political and public speaking experience, read from a prepared speech but still succeeded in inspiring the crowd.
When former President Hosni Mubarak made public appearances, his security detail was huge and whole streets were shut down for his motorcade. The New York Times reported that Morsi went out of his way to show the Egyptian public that he fears nothing, except God. He opened his sport coat, showing that he was not wearing a bullet proof vest and said, “I have nothing to protect me from any bullets. I fear God almighty and then I work for you.”
Morsi’s election, regardless of how much power he will have in the coming months relative to the armed forces, is a significant turning point in Egyptian history. He is Egypt’s first democratically elected president and the first president without a military background. Additionally, he is a long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood who was held as a political prisoner during Mubarak’s last days in office in 2011. Morsi’s election represents the culmination of 84 years of efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood to influence Egyptian society. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Hasan al-Banna founded the group in 1928 to promote “Islamic law, value and morals.” The organization was officially banned and repressed several times after a member assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud Nokrashi in 1948. Violent factions broke off from the group but the Brotherhood ceased violent activity in the 1970s. The group became so popular that both President Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak had to tolerate its limited activity outside of the political sphere.
The Muslim Brotherhood became popular at the grassroots level throughout Egypt by expanding its membership and running its own private network of hospitals, schools, banks, mosques, businesses, charitable foundations and other institutions. Therefore, after Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power in early 2011, the Brotherhood was more organized than other political groups. Brotherhood-affiliated candidates had been participating as independents in parliament since 1984 but lacked the power to change way the government operated. The success of Morsi’s presidential campaign and the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party in parliamentary elections is partially due to the reputation of the group’s social services.
President Morsi is likely headed for a confrontation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) now that he is openly calling for the reinstatement of parliament. The platform he spoke from on June 29 was decorated with banners reading, “No to dissolving Parliament!” At other times he has praised the army for transferring power to civilians. According to CNN, on July 2, President Morsi’s spokesman told media outlets that Morsi is examining ways to restore parliamentarians to their seats. The SCAF currently holds legislative power since parliament was dissolved following the Supreme Constitutional Court’s decision to declare the Parliamentary Elections Law unconstitutional.
President Morsi also provoked the United States (US) by promising the crowds in Tahrir Square to fight for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a convicted terrorist linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and another plot to destroy other New York City landmarks. According to NBC News, Rahman is serving a life sentence in the United States. Several US politicians issued strong statements decrying Morsi’s comment. Senator Charles Schumer said Morsi’s “offensive statements are an insult to the memories of the victims of the World Trade Center bombing.” Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Morsi’s speech is “evidence that he is an Islamist and a radical who cannot be trusted.”
According to many analysts, Morsi will likely maintain Egypt’s current foreign policy trajectory. According to CNN, Morsi seems committed to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel despite referring to Israeli leaders as “vampires” and “killers.” Emad Gad from Cairo’s Al Ahram Center for Political Studies told the Los Angeles Times, “There will be no change in the peace treaty with Israel, and strategic relations with the US will continue.” He believes that “Morsi will actually enhance relations with the US” since the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic plan is based on free markets.
For previous news on Egypt, please see:
The New York Times - Egypt’s New Leader Takes Oath, Promising to Work for Release of Jailed Terrorist
Egyptian Election Outcome Uncertain, SCAF Issues Constitutional Decree
Al Jazeera - Mohamed Morsi sworn in as Egypt's president
CNN - New Egypt president takes on military over parliament
CNN - New president: Egypt turns page to new era
The Council on Foreign Relations - Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood
The Los Angeles Times - Egypt foreign policy tone may change, but not its substance
NBC News - New York-area politicians condemn Egypt's new leader over bid to free terrorist