Egypt’s Morsi: Has He Started Something He Can’t Finish?

The standoff is not only in Cairo but in cities and towns across the country. And the secularists are adamant that they will not talk unless he backs down completely

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Moises Saman / Magnum for TIME

Family members of Gaber Salah, a member of the April 6th revolutionary movement killed by police during clashes on Nov. 20, mourn outside the Omar Makram mosque in Tahrir Square, Nov. 26, 2012.

In the days since President Mohamed Morsi launched his bold Thanksgiving night power grab via constitutional decree, Egypt has become accustomed to daily, dueling protests as supporters and critics of Morsi make public shows of strength. But on Monday, the country witnessed a tragic side-affect of the current unrest: dueling funerals.

In Tahrir Square, mourners commemorated the death of Gaber Salah, a 16-year old protester who died Sunday from birdshot wounds suffered days earlier in running clashes with the police. About 90 minutes away in the rural Nile Delta city of Damanhur–a longtime Muslim Brotherhood stronghold–a second set of mourners laid to rest the body of 15-year-old Islam Mahmoud, a young Brotherhood cadre who also died after being hit in the head with a rock during clashes there that left 60 others wounded.

The twin martyrs–both teenagers on opposite sides of the Egyptian ideological divide–cast an air of dread over a nation still reeling from the after-effects of Morsi’s maneuver.

With both sides calling for massive demonstrations on Tuesday, the country has been visibly bracing itself for the worst. Multiple private schools have told their students to stay home, and the U.S. embassy–just outside of Tahrir–announced it was suspending consular services for the day. While Education Minister Ibrahim Ghoneim insisted on Monday that public schools would remain open, mass absences are expected as worried parents plan to keep their children indoors.

(PHOTOS: Thousands Protest President Morsi’s Decree)

The possibility of heavy violence in Cairo is actually fairly unlikely. The two rival protest groups have so far stayed away from one another, and police have erected concrete walls around multiple entrances to Tahrir Square–reducing the number of potential flashpoints. Furthermore, some fears were mollified late Monday night when the Muslim Brotherhood–where Morsi was a senior official before winning the presidency–announced it was cancelling its pro-Morsi rallies on Tuesday in the interest of public safety.

But outside of the capital, the situation is far more tenuous. Violent clashes between pro and anti-Morsi demonstrators have broken out in multiple cities over the past few days–often involving enraged crowds attacking the local headquarters of the Brotherhood or its offshoot Freedom and Justice Party.

Meanwhile, Morsi continues to try to manage the after-effects of his decree–which, among other things, placed all of his decisions and the status of the body drafting the new constitution outside the reach of any kind of judicial oversight. Two senior advisors to the president are known to have quit over his decision so far. And on Monday, Morsi met with a group of senior judges in order to try and resolve the dispute. Egypt’s judges revolted en masse in the wake of the decree–saying Morsi had overstepped his authority and threatening a nationwide strike. So far only a handful ofjudicial districts–each voting internally–have opted to strike.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki, who is handling the shuttle diplomacy between Morsi and his own judicial branch, continues to make optimistic statements about an impending compromise. But on Monday Presidential Spokesman Yasser Ali flatly stated that the constitutional decree will not be altered. Egypt’s stock market plummeted almost immediately upon opening for business Sunday morning. Trading was briefly suspended and the market ended the day with nearly a 10% drop in value. It made a modest recovery on Monday.

As the crisis drags onward, the shape of the political battle lines are coming into sharper focus. In addition to his own Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi’s main public ally in the dispute is the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party. On the other side is a developing coalition of political players under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front. Mohammed ElBaradei, one of the front’s primary founders, has so far refused to even meet with Morsi until after he rescinds his decree.

“There is a good deal of anger, chaos, confusion. Violence is spreading to many places and state authority is starting to erode slowly,” ElBaradei told reporters on Saturday. “We hope that we can manage to do a smooth transition without plunging the country into a cycle of violence. But I don’t see this happening without Morsi rescinding all of this … There is no middle ground, no dialogue before he rescinds this declaration. There is no room for dialogue until then.”

The pressure is mounting from outside Egypt as well. On Sunday, Senator John McCain, urged president Barack Obama to be prepared to use the billions in annual U.S. aid to Egypt as a leverage point to pressure Morsi. Asked on Fox News Sunday about the establishment of an Islamist regime in Egypt, McCain replied: “I think it could be headed that way. You also could be headed back into a military takeover if things went in the wrong direction. You could also see a scenario where there is continued chaos.”

McCain’s mention of a possible military takeover brings up one of the major remaining wildcards: if the violence spirals out of control, will the army step in? So far, the military has not tipped its hand publicly. After more than a year of running the country, the army basically withdrew from public life in August after Morsi won a power struggle with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and sent Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi and his deputies into early retirement. But speculation has grown over the military’s stance on things and Air Force jets have been flying low over multiple areas of Cairo for several days.

MORE: After the Power-Play in Egypt: Morsi and the Islamists Vs. Everyone Else

Ashraf Khalil is a Cairo-based journalist and author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation

53 comments
columbare1
columbare1

There has to be a separation of state from religion everyones religion. Everyone should be free to practice their own religion, but government must be secular .  It's the only way for any government to treat all it's citizens equally.  Otherwise religious strife will follow.

Freetobefree
Freetobefree

People of Egypt we salute your fight for your freedom.

AliBaba
AliBaba

Egypt is headed to be an Islamic state. us has tp cut all aids to Egypt . morest is a Muslim fanatic  and Egypt will headed into nightmare.islam is not the solution. Islam is a prescription for disaster

fpwissa@gmail.com
fpwissa@gmail.com

President Morsi should have never nullified the Egyptian judiciary thus giving himself absolute power. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is simply a move by the Muslim Brothers to impose their own agenda on the whole of Egypt irrespective of  the rationale used to support this decision.

AhmedHussin
AhmedHussin

Morsy is facing now the biggest war in his way to new Egypt against corruption and remnants of Mubarak's organizations and militias as well as corrupted media

Ahimsa
Ahimsa

I trust Mursi. The word "dictatorship" should not just apply to leaders, but to any group or body of individuals that seek total control and influence over a nation without any opposition. The Judiciary is a relic of the pre-Mursi dictatorship. It is trying to control the nation much like Mubarak tried to control Egypt.

I only wish that the new Egyptian democracy provides room for minorities and citizens to co-exist and to share power fairly.

columbare1
columbare1

Morsi's move looks like the move a Dictator would make to insure his grip on power.  If this rule remains in place what is in place to keep Morsi from declaring himself President for life.  The fact that he has done this shows he is unfit to lead Egypt. He has plunged Egypt into chaos.  He should be removed now before he does further harm.

yashabana
yashabana

Morsi is facing attacks from corruption defenders and political pragmatic parties who only work for their sake

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

Morsi is standing alone facing thecorrupted governmental organisations and his so called opposition whodon't care for anything but to be in power .... The decisions arenecessary but how he uses the new powers is what we should first watch... I support him but when he uses his power in the wrong direction Iwill be the first to oppose him.... This is the last chance to removeMubarak's men from the sensitive positions and prosecute the criminals and cleanse the courts

MohammadShaaban
MohammadShaaban

Morsy is facing now the biggest war in his way to new Egypt against corruption and remnants of Mubarak's organizations and militias as well as corrupted media

Gnabergasher
Gnabergasher

Did he not get the memo from the recent revolution?

mypettyhates
mypettyhates

Morsi may have started something he can't finish, but if we treat him hand in glove, our girlfriends may end up in comas. I know, it's serious.

Dachman
Dachman

Take the oil and money away from these Muslim nations and they go right back to a bunch of tribal goat herders. Look at Afganistan, no oil, tribal goat herders beating their women and killing each other. The only thing that keeps any peace in the oil rich nations is dictators who apease the people with more goats for herding...

Egyptian
Egyptian

IS TIME MAGAZINE OUT OF THEIR MIND CONSIDERING MORSI FOR MAN OF THE YEAR 2012 ?? This emerging dictator is taking Egypt to a gloomy road toward religious fascism and you want to honor him ? You do that and thousands of subscribers will pull the plug on their subscriptions..

TizzAlNabi
TizzAlNabi

What a surprise (not). Despite being led to believe otherwise by the Western Press the whole "Arab Spring" thing is in reality an Islamist dictatorship thing.

antonmarq
antonmarq

Round and round we go, where the wheels stop, nobody knows. Well, world, welcome to the real roots of achieving democracy, a path embedded in blood, sweat and tears. Maybe now, people will comprehend what American has been, and is still going through to achieve freedom for ALL.

RihamElReedy
RihamElReedy

neither of the two were brotherhood. they were both anti brotherhood. please review the aggressive protests in Damanhour against the brotherhood.

frankwall1965
frankwall1965

How Morsi was allowed to do this in the first place is beyond me. The situation in the country could spiral out of control if something isn't done fast - using US financial support as leverage is a good way to start.

MPA
MPA

Yellow Journalism at best, lazy writing at least.  This has to be the most biased and immaturely written piece of filth by Kahlil.  He doesn't have a clue what's going on, just pushing out articles for sensationalism.

Time should be ashamed for producing such tripe.

MohamedGamal
MohamedGamal

Hear, O my brother if applied Islam right guarantee you that it will return the Islamic nation to normal because our religion properly every time and place that religion calls us to peace and non-aggression on one invites us also not lying, not cheating think and invites us also Prophet Muhammad to the Shura between Muslims who precise, it now democracythere are more and more in our religion if applied in any nation will be the greatest undisputed and finally my brother call you for not listening for Muslims, but I invite you to listen to Muslims

Martian_14
Martian_14

It is impossible to have a democracy, a humane government in muslim countries. Islam is a stone-age concept that poisons everything it touches.

If it is not Morsy, it will be another thug, another theocrat, another fundamentalist.

maha
maha

@AhmedHussin 

please spare us these old old hillarious explenations knowing that most of the brotherhood killed with mubarak

Freetobefree
Freetobefree

The people of Egypt should control their own fate. You should be allowed to do whatever you want to do. Providing you do not cause harm to others. Power to the people.

maha
maha

@yashabana 

bana your name shows your party so iam telling you to respect the minds of people in this page

maha
maha

@Abdou7abibi 

so you suggest that we wait until he has absolute power to test his intentions ..... so we put our freedom and lives and the lives of our children in the hands of a man who WANTS BY FORCE absolute power .... we got rid of mubarak and his brotherhood and now we have morsi with his mubarak pet to scare us and threaten with the old regime ..... you really cannot see that egyptians are not that stupid ,,,can you?

waynock
waynock

@Dachman Racist drivel, with no substance.  In case you hadn't realized the dictators of Tunisa, Egypt and Yemen were all supported by the United States.  Try and think through the implications of a foreign government meddling in your own nation, funding, arming and suppressing the desire of you and your people to be free.  These dictators were all secular in nature, it has nothing to do with religion or Islam. 

Freetobefree
Freetobefree

and I will be one of those. Freedom to the people of Egypt.

AshrafAlsabbagh
AshrafAlsabbagh

You don't understand what Man of the Year means.  Time is not endorsing Morsi or anyone else if selected as Man of the Year.  It simply means he is the most significant person in 2012.  Time has giving very compelling reasons why Morsi is to be considered Man of the Year.Besides, Morsi by no means a dictator or on his way to becoming a dictator.  What you people do not understand is that we need order in the country until the people vote on the constitution and until we re-establish the parliament.

CraigMiller
CraigMiller

@TizzAlNabi Wrong. Egypt is really the only country in the Arab Spring where Islamists have had such a strong showing. In Tunisia Islamists won a plurality but not a majority and are currently running the country in a coalition with secular liberals, where both sides need to agree to pass anything. Meanwhile in Libya it was the secular liberal parties who won the most votes, although due to the chaos following the civil war the government in Tripoli has limited power at the moment beyond the city limits. Slowly but surely, though, the institutions of the Libyan State are being rebuilt. Yemen, meanwhile, is still definitely a work in progress, with no clear indication of where it will go at the moment.

As much as I hate to agree with Ashraf, someone who clearly has no problem with Islamist dictatorships given his vehement support of Morsi, he's right: the Arab Spring was a rebellion against brutal dictatorships, most of whom we had supported for many years. And yes, Islamist groups will do well in elections in Islamic countries. It's common sense. What needs to happen (and what is happening) is the assertiveness of secular liberal factions to make the Islamists come to the table. In Tunisia and Libya that's going well so far. Egypt... the jury is still out.

waynock
waynock

@TizzAlNabi Democracy doesn't end when it does not conform with your world view.  Does it shock you that a population that is largely Islamic vote people with similar views into power?  Does it surprise you that the western media is trying to spin this so hard considering it was western governments that propped up Mubarak for over 30 years and are now desperate to hang onto some type of power in the form of supporting this corrupt judiciary?  One day you will wake up and see the world for what it is...

AshrafAlsabbagh
AshrafAlsabbagh

Wrong...Arab Spring was the rise against dictators backed for decades by Western countries

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

@RihamElReedy I urge you to seek the truth because Islam was a member of the brotherhood and died defending the party's office

AshrafAlsabbagh
AshrafAlsabbagh

You don't understand.  The Egyptians are fed-up with the carrot policy

waynock
waynock

@frankwall1965 How about the U.S focuses on their own problem?  The matter of 16 trillion dollars in debt, attack on it's status as reserve currency of the world, 50 million people on food stamps, complete and utter corruption of the congress who only serve special interest, federal reserve which is doing quantitative easing infinity destroying the middle class...... In case you hadn't realized, Egypt is in a transition phase after throwing the shackles of the U.S supported Mubarak and his cronies.   The last piece of the puzzle is puppet judicary which have been APPOINTED by the dictator they just overthrew.  Let the new constitution be put to a referendum to the people of Egypt, BY the people Egypt.  A new parliament can then be voted in and the proper checks and balances will apply. 

kamanayahoo
kamanayahoo

@MohamedGamal The first and greatest lie this planet has ever known is the lie that the human male is needed by, and important to, the human female and their children. This particular lie is the grandfather of all lie’s, the lie from which all other lie’s, directly or indirectly, come from. Every lie you will ever hear, see, be a part of, or be victimized by, will have this treacherous and cowardly lie in its background. There has never been a single human male who ever did anything for the human female that women, as a gender, ever needed or couldn’t do for themselves.

MPA
MPA

@Martian_14 How do you explain places like Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia etc. where they are relatively peaceful and the average salary is close to Americans?

waynock
waynock

@Martian_14  What type of comment is that?  What do you use as the basis for your views?  You are aware that Mubarak was propped as a secular leader by the US government?  Approximately 20 billion of the U.S tax payer dollars used to suppress and terrorize 85million people. He plunged the country to abject poverty while he and the ruling class plundered the nations resources.  People like you boggle the mind.  Seriously, just think before you type.

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

@maha Your concerns are very much natural.I surely have the same concerns for such decisions. But I don't see things from one side.This man was not like Mubarak because he wasn't imposed in his position but rather he came by elections.So he can't be compared to a tyrant, but that's not something concrete to build upon. I saw in your comment "WANTS BY FORCE" but that's not what he did technically and practically because technically it's in his authorities and  practically he didn't use any of these powers to threaten the freedom or cease the press.Finally he declared that this decree is useless in both cases, whether the people voted with yes or no in the next referendum so after another week  he loses the powers.Keep in mind that alot of the old regime figures are still in play and won't allow a democratic state where they can't take part in it and corrupt it which is prevented through the new constitution.

CraigMiller
CraigMiller

@AshrafAlsabbagh it's all well and good that egypt needs stability and order, and certainly the judiciary was interfering, but the problem with men like Morsi taking power like this "temporarily" is that they rarely leave. Look at Mubarak's "emergency decrees" and how long they lasted. Face it, you can defend him all you want but at the end of the day Morsi has made himself into a new dictator. Regardless of intentions, that is a fact. And on top of that, creating a brand new democracy is a long and messy process. It took us a decade here in the United States before we finally got everything more or less together. So suddenly the Constitutional Assembly, even if it's not dissolved, fails to come up with a constitution that satisfies everyone. It's not unheard of, and in fact it took years of political wrangling and one major convention to get our Constitution written, followed by two more years of campaigning to get the states to ratify it. What if something similar happens in Egypt? How long will Morsi maintain absolute power?

I'm sorry, there's no way to justify this. Even if he has the best intentions, his actions in the name of Democracy will actually result in just the opposite.

maha
maha

@waynock @TizzAlNabi 

let me correct your history he was voted by 51 percent although largely islamic like you say and iam a muslim and i didnt vote for him or shafeek therefore my advics is to go check the enormous accusation againest the legitimacy of the whole thing as the respected brotherhood used the extreme poverty and uneducation of some regime to rise to power and this proven by a lot of people sooooo he didnt ge 90 or 80 or 70 or even 59 and that is why the opposition now is more than they can handle and you can see from what happened now with the ate of this post from the extreme violence from them

maha
maha

@Abdou7abibi @RihamElReedy 

i urge you to go back to the TV program that i will gladley check for you when it was on Dream tv that talked to the mother and brothers of islam stated that the brotherhood gave him Takleef and iam sure you know what is takleef to go and do an assignment and when he refused cause he is too young he was threatened to be cut off from the money supporting his family and then when the brotherhood went to defend their office he was there and he told them he is with them but they didnt believe him and beat him to death thinking he is one of us the protestors  and only later through his membership card they discovered the tragedy HE WAS JUST 15 but i think also you know that the brother hood is not egyptian people it is 3ANASER loke robots with no feelings, common sense and they dont know each others assignments or personally so PLEASE

maha
maha

@waynock @frankwall1965 

please dont attack what you dont understand and i wish we half the freedom they have as their problems is how to make their livs better and that is done by exposing their own mistakes and weaknesses not by absolute power that morsi wants

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

@maha Legislation system? He tried to get that system running by getting back the parliament but he rather failed courtesy of the constitutional court(occupied by Mubarak's judges).And I meant technically that the law gives that to him and he didn't forego the law that's all I meant.As for (eno elghalaba eda7ak 3alehom) you said yourself that the Egyptians aren't stupid and I believe it too but the percent should have been higher than that because the other candidate was an old regime figure and yet he gained 49% of the votes?!!!Do your really think that he got those votes because people love him??. And what part don't you understand about that the DECREE IS OVER IN ANOTHER WEEK? so in 2 or 3 years he's still a normal president without absolute powers.And as for people disagreeing and getting killed, do you know that since Thursday 8 people died?! FROM THE SUPPORTERS.

maha
maha

@Abdou7abib

noooooo it is not in anybody's authority to change the face of a whole country and paralyze the legislation system and especially that they are not the majority they are a minority that can be represented politically but not the ultimate power and that is freedom also do you really think these elections are fair or honest then you are not seeing the other party not me 51 that was it ya abdou7abib with a lot of them(the educated ones) againest him now (please dont let me argue about that eno elghalaba eda7ak 3alehom we shof ely be7sal fe el se3eed now)so he was imposed on me and 49 percent that didnt vote for him , he was imposed by the power of poverty and money so now it is different cause you cannot come and tell everybody i have the power to be what i want and do what i want and expect people to respect his position ..... He is an employee of the people have you ever seen an employee with ultimate powers ,,,,,stop worshiping figures they are just people like all the poor poor people of egypt no more or less so what makes him ride in a bullet proof car and another get kille for disagreeing with him ...read the decree .... and read between the lines mubarak was hell but morsi will be more in 2 or 3 years after he gains his powers you can see it in his attitude towards the opposition

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

@maha I'm really sorry but I do not understand what you are refering to by ""now tell me honestly DEYA is not involved and you can see they are poor".

maha
maha

@Abdou7abibi @maha 

this is the second one with the family the first  made me cry for the young boy although a member of the brotherhood but the second on dream also made me angry but i really dont care cause what i saw from his mother in the first one was her eyes straight to the camera and agony in her words but the second on dream also was her total backup for the brotherhood now tell me honestly DEYA is not involved and you can see they are poor 

Abdou7abibi
Abdou7abibi

@maha Truely I don't think there's a TV channel that could be trusted specially the ones owned by old regime business men.Commenting on what you said about money and so, there's only one problem and that is the muslim brotherhood doesn't pay money to its members it rather takes money and concerning the story you just told I have a video for you and please watch it "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKQ-7xMlpbo"