x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Egypt needs an independent president

A leader who is not controlled by the military or the Brotherhood is simply essential, an Arab editor argues. That's one of three Egypt-related opinion pieces in today's excerpts.

One day while Mohammed Morsi was president of Egypt, he asked Dr Mohamed ElBaradei to visit the Heliopolis palace, recounted Ghassan Charbel, editor of the London-based paper Al Hayat.

The meeting was supposed to involve just the two men, the editor wrote, yet the visitor could sense the hovering spirits of the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie and his deputy Khairat Al Shater.

Mr ElBaradei feared that the president was being led more by the Supreme Guide than by the constitution. He later said, "I talked with the president and lost hope about him", Charbel wrote.

Hamdeen Sabahi also went to the palace to meet Mr Morsi. The shadows attending that meeting reminded him of a conversation the two had had when Mr Morsi was a run-off election contender.

Mr Sabahi had come third with nearly five million votes, narrowly missing the run-off. Mr Morsi was hoping to attract those votes to win the run-off win. "If you become president, will you be independent of the Brotherhood?", asked Mr Sabahi. Mr Morsi could not answer, but did invite Mr Sabahi to serve as vice president. Mr Sabahi declined.

Amr Moussa also headed to the palace and met the president and the two shadows. Some time later, he voiced concerns about Egypt under the Brotherhood.

This was before the milestone June 30 when those three figures demanded early presidential elections to save the country from Mr Morsi's rule - and the shadow behind it.

Asked by the editor if he had expected that Hosni Mubarak would fall and the Brotherhood would take office, Essam El Arian, vice-president of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, replied that this had not been in their wildest dreams.

The January 25 revolution caught the Brotherhood's Guide, as well as Mr Mubarak's generals, off guard. Voters, keen to get rid of the shadow of Mr Mubarak and his generals, fell under the shadow of the Guide instead.

Unfazed by June 30, Mr El Arian said that President Morsi would not only finish his term, but could win a second one.

The editor wrote that Mr Morsi had failed to dispel the belief that "the Guidance Bureau is the president of the president". And as Mr Morsi's mistakes piled up, the media showed no mercy. And concerns about Brotherhoodisation brought millions of Egyptians into the street.

Failing to understand why millions signed a petition baying for the president's blood, the Brotherhood preferred to highlight the shadow of General Al Sisi to reinforce their sense of victimhood.

The Brotherhood took a chance and let the Guide into the palace. But the removal of an elected president is also risky business. The only way out now is a constitution in tune with Egypt's spirit, with an elected president trammelled neither by the Guide's shadow nor by the generals'.

Egypt's opposition will fall into its own pit

No wise person would have expected Egypt's nascent democracy to become as stable as, say, Sweden's in just two years, Taoufik Bouachrine wrote in the Moroccan daily Akhbra Al Youm.

But neither could any true democrat have imagined a result as dramatic as intervention by the army, he went on.

The intervention of the army and the arrest of the elected president along with 300 members of his Muslim Brotherhood is not the right option, the writer said.

"Egypt had since 1952 been in the bosom of the junta, and what was the outcome?" he asked.

Yes, President Mohammed Morsi made many mistakes and may have lost political legitimacy, but he still had legal legitimacy. Why didn't the military leave the June 30 movement to topple Mr Morsi by protest, strike and civil disobedience? No president, however strong his nerves and his loyalists, can hold out against a mass uprising and a paralysed state.

If the army chief, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, had left Mr Morsi and his organisation to handle the crisis, they might have accepted a referendum on his legitimacy, or early presidential elections.

Now Mr Morsi is made a martyr of democratic legitimacy. And by resorting to the army to overthrow him, the opposition will soon fall into their own pit.

Arab armies are not charities nor are their leaders of the type of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, the writer argued.

What happened in Egypt is not a coup

If what happened on June 30 is a military coup, then what happened on February 11 was a also a coup, argued Bilal Fadl in the Cairo-based paper Al Shorouk.

Had people in the millions not risen up against Mr Morsi's rule, the army would not have backed their demands. And if Mr Morsi had responded to people's demands, the army would have been incapable of toppling him, the writer argued.

Mr Morsi lost legitimacy the moment he issued the constitutional declaration in February granting himself tyrannical powers; when he appointed ineffectual extremist loyalists to tighten the Brotherhood grip; and when he let down the revolutionaries.

All concerns about what might come next are legitimate. But the bet must be placed on the will of the people who will stand up for their rights in the face of any threat, be it from the military or the government.

In the Egyptian daily Al Tahrir, meanwhile, Nawara Negm wrote that Egypt cannot bear one day of total civil disobedience, with cash reserves being less than half the level of Hosni Mubarak's time. Economic woes will hurt only the people, not the president and his Brotherhood, who would not willingly budge even if the people starve and the state collapses.


* Digest compiled by Abdelhafid Ezzouitni