Friday, November 30, 2012

Notes on the Protests in Egypt

With the fall of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, many Americans bemoaned the imminent takeover of Egyptian public life by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Clearly the MB dominates the legislature, because they were more organized than other parties in the first ever free elections, but events that have unfolded in the past few days indicate that it will not be nearly so easy to dominate the rest of Egyptian life.  Freedom of speech and association are alive and fairly healthy in Egypt today.

Although the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the legislature, Egyptian society is far less monolithic and far less Muslim Brotherhood-dominated than Westerners generally imagine.
Egypt's secular and liberal opposition has been wracked by divisions since the uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago,
Although this has "allow[ed] Islamist parties to dominate the country's democratic transition..."
...last week's decision by President Muhammad Morsi, an Islamist, to eliminate most of the checks on his power and protect a controversial constitutional committee from dissolution may have finally given the various opposition groups what they need most: a cause they can all rally around
Secular parties were far less organized than the Muslim Brotherhood for the last elections, so they did very poorly, but this does not mean that the Egyptian people will take lying down whatever Morsi and the Brotherhood decree.  Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians protested the Mubarak dictatoriship during its death throes, and many of these same thousands are protesting Morsi's power grab. Why did he do it?
Last week Morsi issued a constitutional decree declaring his decisions immune from judicial review until a new constitution is written. He also declared that the committee writing Egypt's new constitution, and the upper house of parliament, are protected from being disbanded by a court decision. A court dissolved the first constituent assembly earlier this year, and a second case due to be decided soon could lead to the same outcome for the second body.
As indicated in the previous quote, while the populace resoundingly does not trust Morsi's recent decision, and perhaps because of this lack of trust, Morsi and the Islamists claim that Morsi's accumulation of power is only intended to be temporary.

The more secular portion of the Egyptian populace fears a trend toward Sharia Law in Egypt.
Secular Egyptians feared that Morsi and his Islamist allies were crafting a basic legal text that would move the country starkly in the direction of Islamic law, and argued that it was being drafted by a group that was far from representative of Egyptian society.
Anti-Morsi protesters are many of the same people who protested against Hosni Mubarak before his fall from power about 18 months ago. Their situation was precarious then, as it is again now.  But they were successful then, and they will very likely be successful this time, too.  With the added experience of organizing opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood over the last several months, the secular groups in Egypt should be able to close the gap and balance the political forces in the Egyptian legislature beginning in the next election.

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