There is no longer a parliamentary opposition in Egypt.
With the new,
controversial constitution, President Mohamed Morsi has full executive powers;
he names the prime minister, the judges of the Supreme Court and the heads of
all public institutions.
With the dissolution of the lower house of the
parliament, he has entrusted, until the next parliamentary elections, the
legislative powers he had taken over to the upper house – where the Muslim
Brotherhood and Salafists hold 85 percent of the seats.
judiciary retains a measure of independence, and even that is threatened by
several dispositions of the new constitution.
Morsi is now making an
allout effort to appoint members of the Brotherhood and their supporters to
every available position, in spite of the spirited resistance of the judiciary,
media and Interior Ministry, where there is a long-standing tradition of
opposition to the Brotherhood.
Parliamentary elections that were to be
held two months after the constitutional referendum, in February, have been
postponed without explanation and are now scheduled for an unspecified date in
April. It is generally understood that Morsi wants to ensure that he has
everything sewed up tight and can confidently expect victory for his Freedom and
Deprived of parliamentary influence, opposition forces are
taking to the streets and demonstrating while – in a major surprise – staying
relatively united under the banner of the National Salvation Front.
from giving up after the constitution was approved, the Front is still demanding
the drafting of a new and fair constitution.
The three main non- Islamic
opposition forces – the Left, liberals and Nasserists – are even considering
setting up a unified list to try to defeat the Freedom and Justice
They are, however, under no illusions: the Brotherhood is going to
use every ounce of its considerable influence. This includes some spectacular
violations of the law as seen in the referendum vote, in which Copt voters were
prevented from reaching polling stations by roadblocks set up around their
The National Salvation Front clarified its position in a
January 6 communiqué: All steps leading to the drafting of the constitution and
the referendum are tainted. This includes the composition of the constituent
assembly, the hurried drafting of a constitution that does not express the will
of the people, a flawed referendum rife with fraud, threats and terror, the
intervention in the judiciary process and the use of force.
have been drawn between Islamists attempting to take over every single lever of
power and a secular opposition which so far has no part whatsoever in the
running of the country and can only express itself through street demonstrations
and press communiqués.
The Front is asking its supporters to maintain
pressure on the regime through sit-ins in Tahrir Square and near the
presidential palace, while avoiding violence. The opposition is pinning its
hopes on the mass rally it is calling for the second anniversary of the start of
the revolution – set to happen this Friday. It is also threatening not to take
part in parliamentary elections unless suitable guarantees are given concerning
their fairness and transparency. This includes 10 essential conditions such as
interdiction of political campaigning inside mosques, as well as the
establishment of a new government acceptable to all through a balanced electoral
The Brotherhood is not responding and there has been no dialogue
between its regime and the opposition.
The upper house of parliament has
hastened to pass a new electoral law favoring Islamic parties, and has rejected
a proposal that would have made it mandatory for each party to include a woman
in the top half of its candidates list. That law is still awaiting the verdict
of the Supreme Constitutional Court, and could be declared
Meanwhile, the government is working on a law
“regulating” demonstrations – or more accurately, curtailing the right to strike
Morsi charges on regardless, and behaves as if he is
enjoying widespread popular support. He appears not to notice ongoing
demonstrations calling for an end to the Brotherhood’s regime, or threats by the
opposition to boycott the elections.
He seems unaffected by the
resignations of the vice president and a number of presidential advisers in the
face of accusations of abuse of power, as well as by the governor of the Central
Bank of Egypt, in the face of his refusal to acquiesce in the disastrous
economic policy of the government.
Had Egypt been a truly democratic
country, the president would have been forced to resign long ago and new
presidential elections would have been held.
Morsi is also waging an
all-out war against the media – since large sections are hostile to the
Brotherhood and what they call the “Ikwanisation” of the country (from Ikwan,
Arabic for Brotherhood) – changing textbooks to better conform with the
As the Arab Network for Human Rights Information
said, as quoted on Sunday by News of Egypt, “There were four times as many
‘insulting the president’ lawsuits during President Mohamed Morsi’s first 200
days in office than during the entire 30-year reign of former president Hosni
Mubarak... Moreover, the number of such lawsuits during the Morsi era is more
than during the entire period dating back to 1909, when the law was
Much now depends on the scope of Friday’s
Will the National Salvation Front be able to muster enough
popular support to show that it is a force to be reckoned with? Or will the
opposition lose heart and let itself be steamrolled by a triumphant Brotherhood,
poised to paint the country in the green of Islam?
The writer, a Fellow of The
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt