Morsi’s Next Move: Egypt’s President Got His Constitution, but Can He Fix the Economy?

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An image released by the Egyptian Presidency shows President Mohamed Morsi at his office in the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 26, 2012, as he signs a new constitution.

When Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi last spoke to his nation on Dec. 6, he was angry and defiant. He deplored the deadly clashes between opposing protesters outside the presidential palace while ignoring his own Muslim Brotherhood’s role in sparking that violence. And he made vague accusations — not dissimilar to those once uttered by the toppled dictator President Hosni Mubarak — that his opponents were being paid by sinister foreign interests.

That appearance built on an earlier one in late November after Morsi issued constitutional decree greatly expanding his powers, thus appearing to be President of the Islamists rather than the elected leader of all Egyptians. He spoke before a cheering crowd of supporters in front of the presidential palace while opposition protesters battled police in Tahrir Square. Even senior Brotherhood officials later admitted that it would have been better for Morsi to address the nation on more neutral terms.

(PHOTOS: Thousands in Cairo Protest Morsi’s Decree)

But on Wednesday night, in the wake of a victorious ratification of his controversial constitution, Morsi presented a far more polished and conciliatory face. He hailed the constitution as a major victory for the new democratic Egypt and spent much of his time offering an olive branch to the non-Islamist forces who have grown increasingly bitter and hostile toward his rule.

Morsi on Wednesday night looked like a man in the home stretch of an arduous journey with the most difficult part already past him. He spoke with regret of the “difficult decisions” he has been forced to make in the past two months in order to bring this constitution to fruition. At several points he offered veiled apologies for all the eggs he had to break in order to make the constitutional omelet.

“It’s a healthy phenomenon to have these differences of opinion and ideas,” Morsi said. “To those who voted no and to those who voted yes, I offer my thanks.”

(MORE: Exclusive: Egypt’s Morsi Tells TIME, ‘We’re Learning How to Be Free’)

Exactly how healthy the past two months in Egypt have been is definitely a matter of opinion. The constitutional endgame has spawned enormous amounts of bad blood between Morsi’s mostly Islamist allies and the newly unified and emboldened opposition. It has also burned almost every bridge of communication between the two sides.

“I feel there has been a serious breach of trust,” said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of the country’s most prominent human-rights NGOs. “There are people we used to think were the reformist wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and now we realize there is no such thing … There are no channels of communication right now.”

Morsi and his advisers seem completely aware of this disconnect. He is urging his critics to come to the negotiating table for national reconciliation talks. But it’s an open question whether anyone of any political significance will answer Morsi’s call. The National Salvation Front — the umbrella opposition group led by Mohamed ElBaradei, former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa and the third-place presidential finisher in June elections, Hamdeen Sabbahi — is remaining noncommittal. An NSF spokesman has said the group is considering Morsi’s offer. But Sabbahi, in an interview with the Turkish Anadolu news agency, made it clear that he considers this constitution an illegitimate and temporary inconvenience. “The referendum was manipulated. However, we’ll deal with it as a fact. We’ll struggle to cancel it,” Sabbahi said.

(MORE: Egypt’s Constitutional Endgame: Where Confusion Is the Rule)

Final results from the nationwide referendum ended up giving ammunition to both sides. Morsi and his allies can point to the healthy 63.8% yes vote as proof of an adequate, if not overwhelming, national consensus. The opposition meanwhile, can point to the surprisingly low 32.9% voter turnout as evidence of widespread lack of faith and enthusiasm in the entire process. Morsi ratified the constitution into law late Tuesday night as soon as the final referendum results were in. But far from producing any sort of feeling of national unity, Egypt’s constitutional drama seems to have set the stage for several more months of partisan screaming matches heading straight into fresh parliamentary elections — which should take place by the end of February.

While Morsi works to manage the political fallout of his constitutional campaign, economic issues will also take priority in the short term. Egyptians are fond of using the term wheel of production as a slightly Stalinist catchall reference to the country’s postrevolutionary economic malaise. Much of the proconstitution campaigning — at least that wasn’t pinned around religious ideology — emphasized the new constitution as a vital step toward restarting that wheel. In the week prior to the referendum, the Muslim Brotherhood placed pamphlets in mailboxes around the country claiming, “A Yes Vote Means Things Will Settle Down and the Wheel of Production Will Start Turning Again.”

(MORE: Analysis: Who’s Afraid of the Egyptian Constitution?)

But it will take more that a new constitution to improve Egypt’s economic picture. The country’s foreign reserves have plummeted, the Egyptian pound on Wednesday fell to its lowest point in eight years, and the government — fearing a wave of capital flight — has banned citizens from leaving the country with more than $10,000 in cash. Negotiations for a much needed $4.8 billion IMF loan have been put on hold due to the constitutional crisis. Earlier this week Standard and Poor’s dropped Egypt’s long-term credit rating to a B- (on par with officially bankrupt Greece) and warned that a further downgrade was likely if there was a “significant worsening of the domestic political situation.”

Morsi, in his Wednesday speech, made it clear that addressing the economy will be one of Prime Minister Hisham Qandil’s top priorities going forward. But government ministers have tried to sound an optimistic note, saying that the economic picture should rapidly improve now that the dirty work of the constitution is out of the way.

“The government reassures all about the economic situation,” said Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Mahsoub on Wednesday. “We don’t have an economic problem; essentially it is a political problem that is affecting the economic situation.”

Khalil is a Cairo-based journalist and author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation.
MORE: Washington’s Two Opinions of Egypt’s Islamist President

57 comments
deiing
deiing

@TIME very good then he is able to fix the economy

RehamAlii
RehamAlii

@TIME @timeworld we'll wait, see and hope he can:/

BrindusaB1
BrindusaB1

@TIME @TIMEWorld Only way 2 do it:accept/take $ from US/Qatar/Iran/Russia.Problem:will have 2 dance 2 their tune.

20102fm
20102fm

@TIME @TIMEWorld let's hope that he will

greenrivergroup
greenrivergroup

The sooner both the Muslim Brotherhood and the sectarian blocks in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt realize that the one true path to economic progress is for the three countries to join as one the better.  Alone they are hopeless messes.  Together they could be an economic miracle within 5 to 10 years.

If the vast majority of people who did not vote actually saw a plan that would work to create jobs and stability then perhaps voter turnout and long term decisions would be much greater than 34%.  

Each brings what the others lack and desperately need.  Tunisia brings relatively large educated middle class, Libya brings energy and Egypt brings a large enough consumer market and labor force to give the combined countries a viable internal economic engine.   Single market, single currency, freedom of movement across the expanded nation are all huge economic catalysts for economic leap forward.  

Approach unity as 71 governorates not 3 countries.  (Egypt should give the 2 Sinai Governorates to Jordan).  Capital in say Bayda Libya.  Upper chamber of National Parliament would be Egypt 25 governorates, Libya 22 and Tunisia 24.  Say two members from each governorate in the government house.   Lower house single vote single representation.   Balance of power.   

Since a new country means all old institutions and power bases all need to be built anew from the ground up.  So to the constitution.  Also greater country greater amount of minority groups.  More need to defend their rights.  

Local hero Ibn Khaldun called it creating a new asabiyya many centuries ago.  Time to dust off his work and reconsider the way forward.  It truly is United they will succeed, divided they will fail.   If the Brotherhood truly has the backing of the people of all three nations then they have nothing to fear.  If the sectarians feel they are not being heard then this too should become clear.  

WMatata
WMatata

@TIME @timeworld @ianbirrell @UKParliament Anyone who can't see that Africa will never be allowed to prosper need to get their head checked

WMatata
WMatata

@TIME @timeworld Are you kidding? The west will never allow an African economy to prosper. Ask uncle Gaddafi.World ended in Africa in 1885

WMatata
WMatata

@TIME @timeworldArw y

HusseinElbakry
HusseinElbakry

@monaeltahawy @TIMEWorld The only thing Morsi could fix thus far was his groins! To verify this, ask the Australian PM.

stickler800
stickler800

@TIME @TIMEWorld,i think nobody can fix Egypt,s economy, the population explosion will see to that in time.

Swelamiat
Swelamiat

@TIME @timeworld what does the title of this article have to do with its text. Very weak article.

gora729
gora729

@TIME @TIMEWorld Morsy can't feel the pulse of modern Egypt ppl, how he can revive economy?

kishorashah
kishorashah

@TIME @TIMEWorld Egypt is ideally placed to become world's best free trade zone. Time to take directional change for Pr. Morsi.

goodall_robert
goodall_robert

@TIME @TIMEWorld Unfortunately, nope. He is a dork also.

MPA
MPA

It's not "his" constitution, it's the people's.  Nearly 2/3's of voters approved it.

Zeyba
Zeyba

@monaeltahawy @timeworld Economy is not going to be easy. Morsi will have to move beyond Brotherhood mindset & reach across ideologic lines

1Lolamarina
1Lolamarina

@monaeltahawy You tell me.. You are the expert on Egypt. @TIMEWorld

hiltons_mama
hiltons_mama

@DLachine He will do but give him chance

ssaahy
ssaahy

@DaliaEzzat_ @ashrafkhalil Another question could be "does he want to?" I thought it ridiculous at first, but am now concerned.

DaliaEzzat_
DaliaEzzat_

@Sarahcarr your new avatar is giving me nightmares.

AliBaba
AliBaba

mr khan .you said sharia law is perfect. sharia law is good for idiot whim can not know freedom of speech .if your sister or your mother has an affair ,would like her to be stoned. we are in civilized society and Islamic law is for stone age and barbaric people

AliBaba
AliBaba

there is no way to fix the economy. the country is broke. the price of wheat is soaring and it causes serious liability  for the budget crisis. in addition .Isla mist .policy  will have negative impact on economy and many people will lose their income on tourist industry . the austerity measure by IMF will increase the discontent and set a stage for another turmoil

MansoorKhan
MansoorKhan

World Media is straining itself to make Egypt or Morsi fail because its backed by Muslim Brotherhood party;Will same yard stick be applied to Israel for its rigid rules,stringent human rights violations,......INSHA ALLAH all shall fail in their deceptions of views & opnions.

As for the Whole World Economy is in shambles;Israel is surviving on American Tax Dollars;the Whole Capitalist Economies are failing because of greed of money.....

As far as Muslims Countries are placed now......its only the Divide & Rule of Western Countries in play now that's keeping water boiling on issue-less issues instead ALL MUSLIM COUNTRIES SHALL UNITE TO IMPLEMENT SHARIA'

jisco
jisco

Tourism, and specially european tourism, is very important for the egyptian economy. I am afraid that european tourists will not come back in great numbers to a country run by an islamist government under a shari'a-inspired constitution.

toughluck
toughluck

Boo hoo hoo. Now that yet another Muslim country is done cannabalizing itself and killing, raping and mutilating their own people, we are supposed to feel sorry for you and send you aid? Americans and Europeans are done feeling sorry for you intolerant people who have never gotten along with other countries for thousands of years. Always fighting and destroying everything around you, hating the Christians and Jews, you have become your own victims. Libya, Syria, Afghanistan...the list goes on and on.

Maybe self-genocide is the answer to all your problems. Good luck with that.

jdyer2
jdyer2

Morsi doesn't stand a chance in fixing his economy.  Egypt is a net importer of food and oil, their tourism is dead due to the unrest, and he has a rapidly growing population in a country that is basically a sliver of green in a large mass of desert.  What can anyone do?

greenrivergroup
greenrivergroup

@MPA  2/3's of the 34% of eligible voters who voted. So roughly 22% of eligible Egyptian voters approved the constitution. Not exactly a resounding mandate by the masses. Any true government needs to start with the truth.

nadinefanous
nadinefanous

@DaliaEzzat_ @sarahcarr thanks Dalia for voicing it out :) Yes Sarah I get the creeps every time I see it

MansoorKhan
MansoorKhan

@AliBaba Freedom of Speech & Freedom of Rights of anybody's mothers & sisters will not get Nothing but just Nakedness & Dirty Minds.....AFFAIRS DONOT GET A GOOD MARRIAGE/Life but Deen ISLAM Will.

if u are in stone age with ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES then i suggest u Pls recite kalima again......Dear Brother for sake of few Morsels of Bread Please SELL UR EMAAN  

ALIBABA- U R BORN Because ur parents performed Nikah according to SHARIAH.

MansoorKhan
MansoorKhan

@AliBaba U r version & thought seems to be limited to this Worldly Needs......first try to get Ur basic ISLAMIC PRINCIPLE Rights....if u have Deen in Ur Life/Home/way of Life THEN NO MOTHER/SISTER Will be Stoned.

Your thoughts & views reflect more on this progressive hallow World then on Quran/ALLAH/NABI s.w.a/Hadith/ which are basic for u to be called ALIBABA.

MAY ALLAH Subhanutaa'la Grant Hidayaat to One & ALL & FORGIVE US For all our misdeeds...Ameem

MPA
MPA

@AliBaba Of course there is a way to fix it.  The problems were that SCAF didn't do anything for 18 months while they were in power and the idiot protestors rather be in the streets hurting businesses and not working, also adding to the ills. The Opposition leaders are leading the idiot protestors around like the Pied Piper because they'd rather see the country economically destroyed rather ran by the Brotherhood.

toughluck
toughluck

MansoorKhan, the United States gives $1.5 billion in foreign aid to the Egyptian government each year. Appaerently they forgot to tell YOU about it.

You state, "the Whole Capitalist Economies are failing because of greed of money."

Why is Egypt failing then if your Sharia Law is so great? Where is your Allah now?

DavidReturns
DavidReturns

@MansoorKhan I very much agree that the dominant Western World Media is straining to make Morsi and Egypt fail, most likely in order to manipulate their own chosen leader into power.  I am glad that democracy is working in Egypt regardless of religious affiliation.  I have no personal ties to Islam, nor allegiance to any world religion.  I am however very much opposed to the Western Christian/Judaic manipulation of every news story and world event in order to justify their own means.  Their philosophy will indeed fail on the fact that it is based on deception and attempted manipulation of the press.  The rest of the world, the whole world in fact, is waking up !   Thank you to all those who work hard for truly free democratic rule, such as the UN Vote for the now recognized State of Palestine !   Excellent work.  Human rights and dignity for all, even if they are not Judeo-Christians.  No God would choose one over another.  Insha Allah.

AliBaba
AliBaba

@MansoorKhan Sharia is a barbaric law and there is no way is made by god. each country adopted Islamic law is in trouble  .look what happen in Sudan . look what happen in Pakistan where male prostitute openly doing that kind of job. then the country want stone woman because they have affair. Islam  is a illogical  ideology which reject common sense   . They choose fighting to implement their fanatic ideology

MPA
MPA

@greenrivergroup @MPA Who cares? If 66% of eligible voters stayed home, that means they were more disenchanted with those who voted no, than those who voted yes.  The end result still being the same:  The overwhelming majority wants the Brotherhood's/Salafist's constitution.  You can't win.

AliBaba
AliBaba

@MPA @AliBaba 

the fact that Muslim brotherhood has no clue to fix the problem. The resources of the country is too little and it can not feed population close to 90 million. Tourist will damaged by Islamic law. West will not support moersi indefinitely. the banks are broke. the wheat prices is soaring. The opposition has the right to raise their voices to avoid the tragedy which will occur by Muslim brotherhood

MansoorKhan
MansoorKhan

@AliBaba Please don't get offended by my Reply-As every Worldly law for a criminals or rapist is barbaric-you seem to get some basic ISLAMIC SHARIA WRONG Dear Brother......

See the Crime rate/Rape rate/Molesting rates in Statistics around the World while were SHARIA RULES ARE APPLIED IS LESS....

Each Country applied Shariah but people like us have failed it because of our Liberal mindset trying to Satisfy Our White Masters....ruling World only for their Own Gains.

Pakistan is a Failed State because it was used by Americans/Nato/Russian for Afghanistan.

Sudan is divided State because Oil & Muslims/Christians Divide.

ISLAM & SHARIA Need to be applied by One & ALL Muslims in way of Life Not forceful implementation by Governments & its Law Enforcing Agencies.......

DO WE MUSLIMS HAVE THE COURAGE TO STAND UP BE COUNTED AS MUSLIM LINES..

Sadly "No"--

 You seem to have guts to call Sudan/Pakistani/Muslim people "Fanatic"-Let the same media call all Public Free Shooter in America /Denmark /etc.... fanatics -It shall never HAPPEN

We go overboard to make ourselves Secular/Democratic etc....But Says ISLAMIC SHARIA.....Its no no......

Sadly its our weakness...of admitting Truth

MPA
MPA

@greenrivergroup @MPA the problem with people like you is that you are so focused on hating the MB, that you completely overlook that it was both the SCAF and the Protestors who drove Egypt to its current fiscal destruction.  As far as the constitution goes, it is irrelevant if 36% or 66% of the eligible voters voted, the fact remains that the vote was free and without barriers.  You and your Opposition types are the anti-thesis of Egypt and you want Egypt to fail, just so you can blame the Brotherhood.  It is both sad and pathetic. The Egyptians living overseas even voted 71% in favor of the Constitution.   The bottom line is it doesn't matter if the eligible voters came out at 36% or 98%, the result would be the same as it has been in ever single vote since Mubarak was deposed. 

You think that the world cares about the opposition?  No we don't.  We see you as troublemakers who are unstable and work to undue Democracy.   You will never be supported by the West.  Do you think that Morsi made his Constitutional Decrees without Western approval? Of course not.  Why do you think none of them condemned it?


The West and the US specifically sees only one group capable of being organized, disciplined and apt to stablize Egypt, and that is the MB.  Anything else you think is just fantasy.

greenrivergroup
greenrivergroup

@MPA @greenrivergroup  66% non voting smacks to me more of major physical intimidation for millions who would have voted.  Not apathy.  And it is not I who will not win  It is Egypt.  And you.   Having created such a rancorous atmosphere it will be decades before Egypt climbs back into the "destination" country it once was. It will become another Saudi Arabia/Taliban/Gaza style tourist destination.  Who wants to go visit women enslaved and Coptic's beaten?   DFI?   Keep those prayers coming.  Those prayers will have to feed and clothed millions.  The education will of course no longer matter.  

There used to be great Muslim civilizations of progressive thought.  Cordoba, Bukhara.  Or men such as Ibn Khaldun.   It is a shame that such visionaries  and world class civilizations such as those have evolved to parties filled with such hatred.  The years or rioting, prison or emigration for those dissenting in the years ahead will take a long steady toll of decline. Again, you show your true ideals by thinking that it is I who lost.  It is your fellow Egyptians and and Egypt who have lost.  And the saddest point is that you do not care.  

MPA
MPA

@AliBaba @MPA Like I said the Opposition can only run their mouths and destroy the country.  They have yet to be part of a working solution.

jisco
jisco

@MansoorKhan @AliBaba Statistics of rapes in islamic countries? No kidding: they are not registered, because the victims are considered responsible for what happens to them. Personnally, I know only two women who have been victims of rape attempts: one in Baghdad in 1962, the other in Riyad.