Now that the government of Egypt is no longer under military supervision, President Mohamed Morsi ought to reinstate that country’s parliament and clearly affirm his will to uphold civil liberties.
After Hosni Mubarak, the former president, was induced to resign in February, 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled as a junta – if a comparatively benign one. When Mr. Morsi took office as president, the SCAF passed to him the headship of state which it had appropriated in 2011, but not before issuing a “constitutional declaration” limiting the President’s powers. It also dissolved parliament, following a court order.
Now, the President has asked for and received the resignations of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the former chair of the SCAF who until Sunday had also been the defence minister for 21 years, and Sami Anan, the chief of staff of the army. Moreover, Mr. Morsi issued his own constitutional declaration, largely reversing the previous one, thus depriving the SCAF of its remaining aura of political authority.
Prudently, Mr. Morsi has promoted officers who are very much part of the military establishment, some of whom are known to be on good terms with the United States military; he has not attempted to put the armed forces under the control of proxies for the Muslim Brotherhood, of which the President is a leading member.
Yet Mr. Morsi has granted himself both executive and legislative powers. At present, there is little or no place for formal scrutiny of the new government.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is right in proposing the convening of a broadly representative and diverse constituent assembly, which would both draft a new constitution and act for the time being as Egypt’s legislature.
The civilian presidency is good progress, 60 long years after the Free Officers’ Movement coup d’état. But the present state of affairs offers very little to counterbalance Mr. Morsi and the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt needs a provisional parliament.