A controversial decree

November 24, 2012 - 3:31:13 am

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has been accused of power grab and hijacking the Egyptian revolution. Whether this charge sticks will be decided in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, he will be asked a lot of questions answers to which will have to be satisfactory to all Egyptians, failing which the country faces the threat of sliding back into chaos.

On Thursday, President Mursi stipulated that any decrees issued by him since taking office and preceding the adoption of a new constitution and the election of a new parliament are not open to appeal and can’t be reversed. The move is considered a blow to the pro-democracy movement which overthrew Hosni Mubarak and sparked fears that the president will be further entrenched in power. The dissatisfaction and fear of people was evident from the reaction. Soon after the announcement on television, hundreds of people came out onto streets in protest. The protests snowballed, and yesterday the country witnessed violent confrontations between supporters of Brotherhood and opponents. The decree also raised international concerns, with the United States calling for calm and urging all parties to work together.

Mursi’s aides say the presidential decree was to speed up a protracted transition to democracy that has been slowed down by legal obstacles. The president himself insisted that the country was on the path to freedom and democracy and ‘political stability, social stability and economic stability are what he wants and is working for’.

Mursi himself could be surprised by the virulence of the opposition. Despite his noble intentions (if they are noble, which he alone must know), the decree has caused confusion and disappointment among large sections of society. Their suspicions are not unfounded going by their bitter experiences in the past under Hosni Mubarak. In such a scenario, the president needs to revisit his decision and avoid anything which will divide the society and cause unrest. As protests spiral and more Egyptians take to the streets, the president needs to weigh the pros and cons of his decision. Egypt is in a period of transition and there is a need to steer clear of anything that will be treated with suspicion and can cause controversy.

What Egypt needs is a swift and complete transition to democracy. But unfortunately, the transition process has been painfully slow. Those who started the revolution and the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to oust Mubarak are worried that the revolution will be hijacked. For the same reason, they are unlikely to tolerate anything which will deprive them of the fruits of the revolution.