Dimitris Rapidis

A coin is always double-sided, and Egypt President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to sack two of the country’s top generals stirs up discussion. From the one side there are those analysts welcoming this stunning decision, and from the other side there are others questioning the intentions of the President and his ever-growing power. Possibly the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Morsi’s decision to retire two top-ranked generals -and put the one beside him as member of his advisory group- is additionally linked with the quashing of one of the major legislation the transitional military body passed on few months ago when Egypt was in process of election. This legislation was dealing with the given power of the military to reduce the powers of the President in case an imminent threat was imposed to the country. In other words, whenever the army would judge that it is time for them to come into power, Morsi would be forced to relinquish in violent or peaceful way. This legislation was attributing Egypt army with the right to intervene in politics and shape both domestic and foreign affairs.

The so-called equilibrium between politics and the army that was established just after the cease-fire of the civil unrest against ex-President Mubarak was looking alike a similar constitutional arrangement made in Turkey since the 1920s, a condition that was leaning in favor of the army and Prime Minister Erdogan endeavored and achieved to alter in favor of the political leadeship a year ago. In Egypt the decision of Morsi to step aside the entrenched military was broadly welcome by activists and politicians, talking about a genuine breakdown of domination and polarization of politics by the army.

Nonentheless, there are some interesting aspects in this decision that regard both the democratic credentials and the possible absolutism of the newly-elected President, the accomodation of the army’s aspirations and responses as well as the role that Islamists groups will have in this major shift.

Referring to Morsi’s curtail of the army’s political authorities, there are concerns that this move will empower a more radical line of the President in domestic politics, meaning that it might prove to enforce its authoritative character against the Parliament and the society. Nevertheless, global-appealing figures of Egypt, like the Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, have praised Morsi’s decision talking about a step ahead in Egypt democratic politics. To my point of view, I certainly believe that even if Morsi’s intention is to bring absolutism in politics, it would not be that easy as he would be entangled with a freshly revolted public that is determined to put in oblivion the dark ages of his predecessor; and I tend to believe that Morsi and his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, are well-aware of that.

Referring to the accomodation of army’s aspirations for political authority, I would like to stress out two major thoughts: as in the case of Turkey, and even if Egypt army might be more radical than the Turkish one, I firmly believe that the perception of politics by the junior military leaders is completely different from the oldest ones. Young military leaders are much more educated, more insightful, and surely competent enough to understand that they cannot expect to yield power in competition with a democratically-elected government. So to my perception, it will not be any extreme backlash.

Referring to the response from Islamist groups, here we do definitely have a more complexed situation. In this respect, I am especially concerned with Hamas which after Morsi’s decision to close the borders with Gaza -in the wake of the deadly attack against Egyptian civilians by unidentified militants in Sina Peninsula- it started to fiercely critisize Morsi’s regime for immitating the harsh, anti-refugee politicy of Mubarak. In response, Morsi’s troops hit back after a storming airflight raid against Islamist militants in the border with Israel. The immediate response from Morsi against the allegedly involved Islamists -I have to admit- was something I could not expect. And this for two major reasons:

1. Morsi is stemming from the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the most infuential, cross-Middle Eastern party of political Islam. Its ties are strongly bound to the Palestinian groups that fight for freedom in the Gaza Strip. In the flotilla incident and the attack of Israelis a couple of years ago, Egypt was the country that received a large number of Palestinians after Israel started a backlash in their territory. I definitely believe that as Morsi has given signs of a wise leadership dealing with the Palestinian issue for so many years, the closing of the borders is something temporary, most of it a move to show his determined spirit of playing a pivotal political role in the region.

2. It is quite possible that after establishing his power in domestic politics, Morsi may look to appease and stabilize relations with Israel, independently from what he is doing with Palestine. And if he is to do so, it would be a great political maneuvering with handed outcome for himself and the perception of Egypt in the Middle East as a geopolitical power.

Given these facts, I tend to believe that Morsi is nothing more or nothing less than a leader who pushes for establishing his power in Egypt and creating a long-lasting commanding of his country. He is powerful and for the moment his moves seem to inspire Egypt after a long period of undemocratic ruling by Hosni Mubarak. One the other hand, I believe we always need to compare situations: if Morsi was not elected and the army was ruling the country, working as an unelected government, Egypt would have no future and would be completely deserted from global and regional politics.

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