The World from Berlin: Uncertainty 'Hindering a New Beginning for Egypt'
Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Tuesday, seems intent on challenging the ruling military council. German commentators question what the power struggle will achieve.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi (right) met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Cairo on Tuesday.
It is unlikely that German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle realized how sensitive his timing would be when he planned his trip to Egypt. When he flew into Cairo on Monday evening, he arrived in a country in the midst of a political crisis. The country's new president, Mohammed Morsi, is engaged in a power struggle with the military whose outcome is far from certain.
After his meeting with Morsi in Cairo on Tuesday, Westerwelle called on Egyptians to continue with the process of democratization in the country. "Germany is a partner of the Egyptian people on their path to democracy," he said. The foreign minister said that he assumed that the new president would support the rule of law and democracy. Westerwelle, the first Western foreign minister to visit Egypt since the presidential election in mid-June, told reporters that he had invited Morsi to visit Germany and that the president had accepted.
Morsi, for his part, appears to be intent on challenging the ruling military council. The new president ordered the Egyptian parliament to convene on Tuesday, in defiance of a ruling last month by the country's highest court that some of the parliament's members had been illegally elected. Based on that ruling, the military council dissolved the assembly in what some saw as a silent coup. On Monday, the Supreme Constitutional Court reaffirmed its earlier ruling dissolving parliament, saying its decision was final and binding.
Nevertheless, the parliament did convene for a brief session on Tuesday, lasting just a few minutes. Members of parliament approved by a show of hands a proposal that the house seek legal advice for how to implement the constitutional court's ruling. The parliament's speaker, Saad El-Katatni, told the assembly that the parliament should respect the principle of "the supremacy of the law and separation of authorities" and find ways to implement the ruling.
Morsi comes from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which holds the largest number of seats in the Egyptian parliament. The power struggle between the president and the military is likely to disappoint many Egyptians who were hoping for a return of a modicum of stability to the country, following the tumultuous months after the ouster of autocratic former President Hosni Mubarak. But some observers believe that the two sides may be able to find a face-saving compromise. As a sign of hope, they point to the fact that the head of the military council appeared by Morsi's side on state television on Monday.
On Tuesday, German commentators muse over Morsi's motives and his future as Egypt's president.
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"When Guido Westerwelle meets the newly elected president of Egypt in Cairo on Tuesday, the balance of power on the Nile will be far from clear. The people have elected Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood to be the head of state. But the constitutional court and the military have strongly limited his legislative powers and dissolved the parliament, where the Islamists are in a majority. It is therefore unclear who currently has the say in Eypt: the president or the generals?"
"Westerwelle, as one of the first Western politicians (to visit the new president in Egypt), must challenge Morsi. The president needs to reassure those who expect nothing good from an Islamist president. ( ) Only if Westerwelle succeeds in extracting from the new president a promise of greater democracy, and if Morsi guarantees that the concerns of women and Egyptian Christians are unfounded, will the German foreign minister's trip to Cairo have been worth it.
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"Not only does Morsi, who comes from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, now expect to win the acclaim of his political allies, but he possibly thinks that the non-Islamist camp will regard his decision to reconvene parliament and reverse the court's decision as a bold step in the fight against the military. Indeed, one could make that argument. But some in that political camp have already voiced criticism. Not everyone views the Egyptian judiciary merely as agents of the military council. Some see Morsi's decision mainly as an act of defiance against the constitutional court, which Morsi had vowed to obey in his oath of office."
"There is a certain amount of evidence that Morsi overreached himself with his recent decision. It's possible that he has chosen the wrong instrument in his conflict with the military. ( ) Egypt is not making things easy for itself or for others. Its revolution is taking a turbulent course."
In a guest editorial for the conservative Die Welt, Andreas Jacobs, who until recently was the head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation's Cairo office, writes:
"Both hopes and fears are attached to the new Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. While some celebrate Morsi as the savior of a socially just and democratic Egypt, others see the prospect of an Islamist dictatorship looming on the Nile. But what is more important than the question of the new president's intentions is the question of his room for maneuver, because Morsi will have to contend with powerful opponents as president. ( ) The institutions of the Egyptian state are controlled by powerful groups who set narrow limits on the new president's political ambitions."
"Egypt will not change just because a Muslim Brother was elected president. What the country needs are viable political institutions, an overcoming of cronyism and corruption and the establishment of a political culture that is ready to openly discuss the country's problems."
The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:
"After the initial enthusiasm for President Morsi, many people are now feeling annoyed. The uncertainty and the (perception of) multiple conspiracies make their lives difficult. More importantly, those things are hindering a new beginning for the country."
"What Egypt needs now is the courage to speak openly, to make decisions and to work together to get the economy and daily life back on track. Morsi has promised a radical new beginning, but he has done exactly the opposite. He has ignored the country's political structures and alienated his hard-won allies from other political camps. It's no wonder that the mood in the country is bad and many people are afraid."
-- David Gordon Smith
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