Reading the MorsiMeter

Issandr El Amrani writes: On Saturday evening, as President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in a Cairo stadium, I listened to his speech in a taxi, stuck in one of Cairo’s perennial traffic jams. Morsi, who has just passed the 100th day of his presidency, was speaking on the occasion of another anniversary, that of the 1973 war in which Egypt managed to break the Bar-Lev Line, the fortifications on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal that Israel built after occupying the Sinai Peninsula in 1967. Celebrated as the “October victory” by Egyptians — despite the fact that Egypt’s military advances were quickly reversed — the day is usually an occasion for martial pageantry and patriotic chest-thumping.

Not this time, at least not entirely. Yes, there was the honoring of the ingenious officers and brave soldiers who devised and fought in The Crossing, the operation to retake the eastern bank of the canal. More remarkable, however, a civilian president was leading the ceremonies for the first time, and most of his speech was devoted not to past military glories but present economic troubles.

In his two-hour address, Morsi defended his record, claiming to have made substantial progress on the priorities he had outlined for his first 100 days in office: security, bread and fuel shortages, public cleanliness and traffic. His detractors differ, of course: a Web site set up to monitor his achievements, MorsiMeter, suggests that he has made substantial progress on only a few issues.

From my vantage point, stuck on Cairo’s Nile Corniche as an ambulance tried to make its way through the gridlock while Morsi boasted of the record number of traffic tickets issued by his administration, it all sounded somewhat tragicomic.

The reality is that Morsi’s honeymoon with the public is nearing its end. He impressed by standing up to the generals and with his initial forays into foreign policy. But he promised too much too soon. Even after the generals got out of the way, he still faced a notoriously obstructive bureaucracy and an almost insurmountable range of problems. Raising expectations about his ability to solve them was not smart politics. [Continue reading...]

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