Thursday, January 31, 2013
Secularist reasons for supporting Morsi
Secularists who want change in Egypt might have good reason to support Morsi - even if he is determined to implement an Islamist agenda.
Though the opposition quite naturally wants to counter Morsi's electoral victories by portraying him as a Mubarak-style dictator, this conceals not only the realities but the opportunities - and indeed the dangers.
Morsi is anything but a dictator.
He does not have control of the most even basic and primitive tool of sovereignty, the power to impose his will by force. He does not control the army. He does not control the police. He cannot rely on any military or paramilitary or police institution to obey him.
Just as Morsi does not possess the force essential to a government or state, he does not have any of the tools supposed to give a state legitimacy. He has, by majority rule, a claim to these tools, but they elude him. He does not have a constitution accepted by his sizeable opposition. He does not have a recognized legislature. He does not even have laws. Every institution of the former government obeys him more or less at the good pleasure of its functionaries.
Just as he does not possess the tools of force or legitimacy, he does not have the resources to shape them, even on an interim basis. That's because he not only lacks control over the judiciary, he and the country don't even have a politically legitimate judiciary. All he and the country have are people posing a judges on the basis of a thoroughly discredited, destroyed régime.
It follows, unavoidably, that Morsi has little but words. It's hardly coherent to speak of what he ought or ought not to do. Since responsibilities imply the means to fulfill them he has, to put it bluntly, no responsibilities. Even if he makes dictatorial-sounding pronouncements, it's just childish to call him dictatorial or to compare him with Mubarak Mubarak had a state, and power. Morsi - since apparently this bears repetition - does not.
If Morsi has only the semblance of power, but is judged as if he had its substance, he is easily perceived as a failure. Opposition violence, even if justifiable, invites the idea that Egypt is sinking into chaos. If it is, the opposition - again, however justifiably - contributes to the situation. But is this a recipe for change?
Inevitably and predictably, the army is hinting ever louder that, if reconciliation fails and society slides into chaos, it might 'have to' intervene. And both reality and perception give some support to the idea that chaos is on the horizon. Meanwhile the NSF shows itself receptive to the army's role as arbiter, and on the street we hear again that the people and the army are 'one hand'. Suppose the army does intervene?
The army will then take over when elections are seen to have failed, when the Brotherhood is seen as incapable of governance, and when the opposition is seen as a politically bankrupt enemy of stability. Meanwhile the NDP and feloul have been, to a certain extent, rehabilitated - after all, they too oppose Morsi's 'dictatorship'. It is hard to resist the conclusion that, should the army intervene against Morsi, it will be the same old, same old: a thinly veiled military dictatorship, perhaps not even in new dress. Indeed it is hard to imagine how anything but an Islamist-secularist alliance could challenge the army's entrenched supremacy. Certainly any fractious, probably unstable 'unity government' (as mooted by Nour and NSF) would be unlikely to do so.
That's not all. If anything is going to radicalize Islamists, it would be their forcible ejection after electoral victory. Everyone can conjure up their own dark scenarios, but no one can imagine that secularists and Islamists will find peace and serenity if Morsi is deposed.
But suppose the opposition lets Morsi form a real government. If recent events show anything, they show that Morsi is extremely vulnerable to political pressure. With real government would come real responsibility for its failures - and a much more promising basis for secularist organizing than the army's return to power. With Morsi, there can be change. Without him, change seems unlikely in the extreme.