Michael Wahid Hanna writes: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi turned Egyptian politics on its head on Thanksgiving eve with his now familiar style of governance: a unilateral, surprise decree, the fourth of its kind since Morsi assumed his position in June. Each of these decisions has proceeded with little to no consultation and, regardless of their intent, each proclamation was notable for carving out further and broader authorities for the executive. The common thread linking these decisions is the majoritarian lens though which the Muslim Brotherhood understands political life and democratic politics — one which bodes ill at this foundational moment when Egypt is attempting to refashion its social compact and establish a sustainable constitutional and political order.
Morsi’s majoritarian mindset is not anti-democratic per se, but depends upon a distinctive conception of winner-takes-all politics and the denigration of political opposition. Winning elections, by this perspective, entitles the victors to govern unchecked by the concerns of the losers. This chronic overreach has cemented the divide between Islamists and non-Islamists and heightened suspicions of the Brotherhood’s ultimate intentions.
The latest constitutional declaration included defensible measures such as victims’ compensation and the reopening of cases related to the violent repression of protesters. But they came with a poison pill, namely, the granting of unlimited and unreviewable presidential authority. In plain terms, Article VI of the declaration enshrined immunity for any and all presidential decisions and an ostensibly temporary form of unchecked one-man rule. Needless to say, for a deeply divided country that had risen up against the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak not two years past, these steps were shocking and ominous for many outside the Islamist political fold (and perhaps even some within it). These measures set the stage for potential repressive actions by an unchecked executive in response to any form of opposition. [Continue reading…]