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Nov 23 2012

This cannot be revoked

The news from Egypt is appalling. The Islamist Morsi has granted himself the power to do anything he wants to do without any hindrance from courts.

President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree on Thursday granting himself broad powers above any court as the guardian of Egypt’s revolution, and used his new authority to order the retrial of Hosni Mubarak.

Mr. Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt’s first elected president, portrayed his decree as an attempt to fulfill popular demands for justice and protect the transition to a constitutional democracy. But the unexpected breadth of the powers he seized raised immediate fears that he might become a new strongman.

Ya think?

“An absolute presidential tyranny,” Amr Hamzawy, a liberal member of the dissolved Parliament and prominent political scientist, wrote in an online commentary. “Egypt is facing a horrifying coup against legitimacy and the rule of law and a complete assassination of the democratic transition.”

It’s so…basic. It trashes the whole point of being “Egypt’s first elected president” and talk of “a constitutional democracy.” This fancy idea of “electing” people? It’s supposed to entail accountability, and limits on power, and stuff like that.

Nathan J. Brown, a scholar of the Egyptian legal system at George Washington University, summed up the overall message: “I, Morsi, am all powerful. And in my first act as being all powerful, I declare myself more powerful still. But don’t worry — it’s just for a little while.”

The BBC reports that Morsi is saying there there there it will be fine.

President Mohammed Mursi has appeared before supporters in Cairo to defend a new decree that grants him sweeping powers.

He told them he was leading Egypt on a path to “freedom and democracy” and was the guardian of stability.

He was speaking as thousands of opponents gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and offices of the president’s party were attacked in several cities.

The decree says presidential decisions cannot be revoked by any authority.

What could possibly go wrong?

21 comments

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  1. 1
    erichaas

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  2. 2
    Eamon Knight

    @1….only with a theocratic agenda this time.

    See C.S.Lewis’ remarks on the choice between falling into the hands of a robber baron vs. those of an Inquisitor. (Yeah, Lewis gets an oft-deserved spanking in these parts, but he was right about that).

  3. 3
    Rutee Katreya

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    With any luck, that includes the part about being in prison for trying to unilaterally rule his people, but it doesn’t look good, no.

  4. 4
    AJ Milne

    There have already been demonstrations.

    Good on them.

    Granted, it isn’t exactly mine to say, but honestly…

    Honestly, I hope they shut the county down. Occupy Tahrir till the bastard hits the road. Impress upon him and anyone else who tries this shit: not in Egypt. Never again.

  5. 5
    Nathanael

    Napoleon did this after the French Revolution.

    It didn’t stick.

    Come to think of it, Cromwell did this after the English Revolution, and that didn’t stick either.

    Democracy can take generations to stick — the first revolution is rarely the one which sticks — but there comes a point when the revolving sequence of incompetent dictators must end. Because there comes a point when people are sick of incompetent dictators.

    (Competent dictators are different, and can maintain their position for long periods, but Morsi doesn’t seem like he’s going to pull an Emperor Augustus and give everyone jobs and food.)

    I hope the process doesn’t take generations in Egypt. I suspect it won’t.

  6. 6
    sailor1031

    Suspicious that there has been no word from the military leadership. They must have approved this.

  7. 7
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]
    President Mohamed Morsi issued a decree on Thursday granting himself broad powers

    Already had said powers, then. This is just exercising them to institute a formality intended to legitimize and entrench said powers.

    Oops. I guess Nathan J. Brown already said that.

    He told them he was leading Egypt on a path to “freedom and democracy” and was the guardian of stability.

    Now why does this sound so fucking familiar?

  8. 8
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    The boss is dead! Long live the boss!

  9. 9
    Eric MacDonald

    Not the same as the old boss at all. It was in fear of this kind of new Islamic boss that the old boss held onto the reins of power. It was not a benign dictatorship, but it did have the conviction that there was worse to come. Why else did it suppress the Muslim Brotherhood so ruthlessly? But, of course, this was bound to happen. You can’t democratically elect a religious supremacy party into power. That is, in itself, an undemocratic thing to do. We are surely not surprised?!

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    No, not surprised. Disquieted, though.

  11. 11
    John Morales

    You can’t democratically elect a religious supremacy party into power. That is, in itself, an undemocratic thing to do.

    Eh? Of course you can.

    (You seem to be confusing the process with the candidate)

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Well you can, but what you’re doing is voting against democracy. Democratically elected theocracy – deeply ironic but possible.

    Only once though.

  13. 13
    Argle Bargle

    …portrayed his decree as an attempt to fulfill popular demands for justice and protect the transition to a constitutional democracy.

    All the best dictators say this to justify their rule by decree.

  14. 14
    John Morales

    Ophelia,

    Well you can, but what you’re doing is voting against democracy.

    Yes.

    A flagrant asymmetry, that democracy allows for its own demise.

    (Its weakness is that it relies on an informed and uncoerced populace)

  15. 15
    oursally

    That song Won’t get Fooled Again by The Who was written with this in mind (that’s where Same as the Old Boss comes from). They must have been prescient.

    But they did get fooled again. The fools. Is there no end to it?

  16. 16
    sailor1031

    We have, apparently, learned nothing from the overthrow of the shah of Iran. The only things surprising about Morsi’s takeover are that it took so long and that it is so blatant.

    Unless there has been a radical unseen shift of power recently in Egypt it seems to me that he must have the approval of the military chiefs to be able to do this. Perhaps they think there’s been enough messy “democracy” now and it’s time to get back to a repressive stability which serves their interests better. Besides they can always throw Morsi to the wolves – as they did Mubarak.

  17. 17
    Argle Bargle

    sailor1031 #16

    …it seems to me that he must have the approval of the military chiefs to be able to do this.

    One of the problems with military dictatorships is the generals don’t have the political, sociological and economic expertise to run a country. The smartest generals realize this and prefer to be the power behind the dictator. As long as the dictator gives the generals the material and manpower they want, they’re willing to let the dictator and his cronies run the country. Only when the dictator really upsets the populace, like Mubarak did, will the generals step in to replace the dictator with an “interim” government to be replaced by another dictator.

  18. 18
    mildlymagnificent

    I’m just watching the BBC World news service.

    The judges, and the lawyers, are in a big meeting which is basically a de facto union meeting – they’re threatening to walk off the job.

  19. 19
    dsmccoy

    It’s very hard for a country to recover from a long dictatorship. It’s not just a problem with islam, (yugoslavia, much of the former soviet bloc), but many muslim majority countries just happen to be struggling with it now. I’m saddened by the news from Egypt, but not surprised. Secular civil discourse just isn’t quite strong enough in much of the muslim world to support a truly democratic government. Islamist populism is too attractive to the masses. This is exactly why the Muslim Brotherhood was suppressed in Egypt for so long, but the suppression only put things off. Egypt has a large group of educated people who do not want this, but they are too far from a majority. If the US had pressured Mubarak to do more to cultivate civil society, the educated Egyptians could have had time to gain experience and build up the trust of the Egyptians, but that didn’t happen and they were not in a strong enough position when the power vacuum was created.

    Iran was a similar story, the islamists gradually elbowed the secularists aside. In Turkey, it’s sad to see what was one of the most secular governments in the muslim world sliding into islamism. Turkey’s islamists have been smart enough to tighten the ratchet very slowly, but it is gradually taking Turkey away from Ataturk’s secular dream.

    I’m surprised that Libya is doing as well as it is so far, there is some hope there. Jordan is the only other muslim country I can think of where the political news doesn’t depress me. King Abdullah has been doing a surprisingly good job of acknowledging the anachronism of his position and gradually bringing his kingdom toward democracy. I think the result will be far better than a suddenly forced transition, where inexperienced islamists would inevitably be elected and botch things up. Not sure if he’ll succeed in the end, but I think the path he is on is probably the most likely to succeed.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    Don’t forget that part of Yugoslavia and a big chunk of the former Soviet bloc also have Islam to contend with…

  21. 21
    Adjusting Screw

    as in the medicine industry rubber with metal filling additives when an O-ring is cooled near Today’s dynamic o-ring in a short rectangular groove was the result of experimental work in the early 1930′s Niels Christensen Several other size specifications also exist Fortunately rubber gaskets

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