Rami G Khouri writes: The dramatic events in Egypt over the past few days following President Mohammad Morsi’s unilateral decree giving him unchallenged political authority should not surprise or frighten anyone. In fact, the continuing developments can be seen as a positive stage in the country’s historic political transition from autocracy to democracy. We are witnessing now the first serious move by several important sectors of governance and political society to affirm their influence, and start to shape a checks-and-balances foundation for the democratic transition that remains to be completed.
Egypt’s democratic political development is less tidy than Canada’s or Sweden’s. It has been clear since the first parliamentary elections last year that five branches of government now prevail in Egypt, and they need time to shape their relationships: the presidency, judiciary, parliament, military (SCAF) and citizens in the street (Tahrir Square). Slowly but surely, the powers of each of these five parties are being defined and exercised. Historically, the military and presidency held the most power. Today, a shift is underway that sees the presidency and Tahrir Square being the most powerful in the short run, but with a clear mandate for the judiciary to safeguard civilian authority and oversee the whole process of change. This will evolve again when the constitution is promulgated and parliament elected in the coming months.
So the most important aspects of this week’s developments, to my mind, are the assertion of the role of the judiciary, and the first serious move by secular liberal and opposition forces to come together into an alliance that could challenge the dominance of the Muslim Brotherhood and their Salafist colleagues. The rapid establishment of a protest tent camp in Tahrir Square by assorted populist forces and demonstrations against Morsi’s decree across the country are an important reminder of the single most significant development that happened during the overthrow of the former Mubarak regime and the assumption of presidential powers by Morsi: The political legitimacy of the ruling civil powers in Egypt is now grounded in populist consent, now represented by demonstrators in Tahrir Square. [Continue reading…]