Something rather significant–and scary–has happened in Egypt:
Seizing on the momentum created by the attack on Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula last week, new Egyptian President Mohammad Morsy took several bold moves this weekend. One of them was firing the country’s most senior military leaders. These moves not only consolidate Morsy’s personal and ex officio power, they in effect reverse the traditional hierarchy of authority between military and civilian leaders in Egypt.
Even more significantly, Morsy has attempted to reverse the “supplemental constitutional articles” that the military issued on August 12 (just before the recent presidential election) an act which purports to restore presidential and legislative powers back to those elected bodies. The fight for the future of Egypt may have reached a turning point.
[. . .]
Morsy is framing these moves in both legal and “national interest” terms, but they certainly serve to consolidate his power, that of the presidency, and, therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Other opposition figures largely welcomed his actions, particularly those that restore traditional powers to the presidency and the legislature and overturn what was largely seen as a military power grab in the run-up to the presidential election. Morsy may be trying to assuage concerns about Muslim Brotherhood domination of the government by also appointing a new vice president, reform-minded judge Mahmoud Mekki. But it’s impossible not to see the gestures as a power grab of his own.
[. . .]
As things stand, Morsy now has almost unfettered authority in Egypt, at least in theory. With the legal status of the sitting Parliament uncertain, he appears to have asserted sole power to enact, confirm and enforce legislation, declare war, and oversee the formation and function of the Constitution-drafting Assembly. New parliamentary elections are more crucial than ever. But until they happen, the power of the president, at least on paper, appears virtually absolute. In practice, there remain many other centers of power, including the new SCAF leadership and the judiciary.
Assuming that the military and, for the meanwhile, the courts, allow Morsy’s decisions to go effectively unchallenged, Egypt, in effect, has a new dictator, albeit an elected one. Beyond the urgent need of restoring legislative authority through new elections, the power struggle in Egypt will increasingly focus on the crafting of the new constitution, which will either produce a system that involves real checks and balances or which consolidates yet another system in which the presidency wholly dominates the political system.
As might be expected, no reaction of any significance has been issued by the Obama administration.