by EBRAHIM MOOSA for ISLAMiCommentary on DECEMBER 8, 2012:
President Mohammad Morsi of Egypt should scrap his tough guy image and appetite for power grabs. In canceling the decree that gave him sweeping powers, he took a step in the right direction tonight. But he is not out of the political woods yet. He should show that he cares more about Egypt than he cares about his own power. If not, his days are numbered, and Egypt’s future is in danger.
Army rule and authoritarianism lurk in the shadows. Military circles are already rumbling. If Morsi threatens to enforce martial law in future, he will only hasten his own decline. Yes, the opposition are a cantankerous and obstructionist bunch of losers, but it was Morsi who handed them a cause and made them look like winners.
First Morsi should get the word out to the opposition that he is serious about forming a government of national unity. He should give people like Egypt’s Conference party leader Amr Moussa, Constitution party founder Mohamed ElBaradei, and other key figures positions in his cabinet and use them optimally. ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, should be given a ministerial position to fast-track science and technology development so that Egypt can compete with India and China and create jobs. Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and past Arab League head, could be given the health ministry.
It’s probably not optimal for Morsi to give Mubarak supporters any role, since much of the Egyptian public would find it hard to swallow. But if that’s what it takes to win peace and stability, he should do it.
Next, in a show of goodwill, Morsi should remove the tanks that were deployed to guard the presidential palace this week. At his swearing in ceremony Morsi boasted he did not wear a bulletproof vest like former president Mubarak did. It is ironic that all the love just evaporated and he now needs tanks to protect him. More importantly he should inform opposition leaders and the police force that if one more Egyptian dies in protests then heads are going to roll and the perpetrators will be held accountable. Egypt must become a model Muslim majority country that respects human life and dignity at all costs.
The first order of business should be to stabilize Egypt, politically and economically.
To that end, it’s crucial that Morsi meet with his opposition, judges, trade union representatives and business leaders.
Morsi must meet with a wide spectrum of opposition members, including representatives from youth, workers and women’s groups as well as religious minority leaders — those citizens who have everything to loose in a declining Egypt.
In his meeting with judges Morsi should be a good listener. The bureaucracy in any developing country can either frustrate or aid a leader. Changes to critical posts will take time. To go on a rampage of hiring and firing judges and senior technocrats is like behaving like a bull in a china shop. These maneuvers will only weaken a precarious political system, and this is a time for confidence building.
However, judges and officials should be told in no uncertain terms that they have no right to buck the democratic process and undermine the will of the people.
Voices from Egypt’s business community should also have Morsi’s ear. Who else can explain to the griping politicos that there will be no country left if they continue to paralyze Egypt’s economy? I’m sure the workers don’t want a life of endless strikes. They need to feed their families.
Finally, the parliament must not be paralyzed; it should get on with the work of the people post-haste.
As of this writing, a referendum on Egypt’s draft constitution is set for December 15, but the opposition claims the draft is biased and refused to join a December 8 dialogue on the draft with the Muslim Brotherhood and it’s allies. Morsi must try harder to get everyone to the negotiating table and ensure that the constitution represents most, if not all sectors of Egyptian society.
Egypt should invite some of the following South Africans who have had recent experience with constitution writing and mediation skills: former trade union leader and now prominent business leader Cyril Ramaphosa (a central figure to ending apartheid and writing the South African constitution), Albie Sachs, a former constitutional court judge, and Ebrahim Rasool, South African ambassador to the US.
It might also be advantageous to invite Tunisian en-Nahda party leader Rachid al-Ghannouchi to Cairo to explain to all parties just what is at stake if Egypt does not get its act straight.
Perhaps these influential figures can talk sense to the obstructionists and sober up those who are drunk with their newfound power.
Egypt must succeed in its transition. If not, the future looks ominous not only for ordinary Egyptians but also for Syrians, Palestinians and Iranians who are suffocating under authoritarian rule.
Morsi has one last chance: he should take any Hail Mary pass thrown at him.
Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Religion and Islamic studies in the Department of Religion, senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, and core faculty with the Duke Islamic Studies Center. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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