Ossie Makepeace writes from Ismailia: All last night the protesters stayed on the streets of Egypt. They attacked the Muslim Brotherhood offices here and up the canal coast at Port Said. Others stoned Muslim Brotherhood worshippers as they left Friday prayers in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. They shouted: ‘Mursi is Mubarak!’ Tucked in his sick-bed, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must have wondered if he is to stand trial again. There are Muslims out there who want his head.
Tens upon tens of thousands set the streets to burn to light up their rage. President Mohamed Mursi also took to the barricades, his own.
From the friendly-faces rally at his palace, the Egyptian leader promised ‘freedom and democracy’ and that he, Mursi, the champion of Gaza peace deal, was indeed Egypt’s guardian of democracy.
The protesters in Tahrir Square read Mursi’s presidential decree that pronounced his decisions unquestionable – even by the lawmakers and, more importantly, the judiciary. As the Mursi decree was posted worldwide, it became crystal clear that the Arab Spring was imperfect.
- All investigations into the killing of protesters or the use of violence against them will be re-conducted; trials of those accused will be re-held
- All constitutional declarations, laws and decrees made since Mr Mursi assumed power cannot be appealed or cancelled by any individual, or political or governmental body
- The public prosecutor will be appointed by the President for a fixed term of four years, and must be aged at least 40
- The constituent assembly’s timeline for drafting the new constitution has been extended by two months
- No judicial authority can dissolve the constituent assembly or the upper house of parliament (Shura Council)
- The President is authorised to take any measures he sees fit in order to preserve the revolution, to preserve national unity or to safeguard national security
For those who feared Islamic domination of the most disagreeable form, the decree laid out their fears. They never wanted to believe that a Muslim Brotherhood leader would lay down such a draconian law as if he were some reincarnation of Gamel Abdul Nasser or a creation of the Supreme Leader of Iran. The new Pharaoh. Never to be questioned.
To be independently minded or objective is a hard call in today’s Cairo in a country that demanded democracy. It was silly to believe that the sadness of a middle class youth, educated and out of work, could be given jobs, position and responsibility for their great country’s future. Instead, they must accept that the man elected to lead after Mubarak’s downfall was never going to come quietly.
The re-holding of trials suggests Mursi’s lot did not like the verdicts and sentences. No Mursi laws and decrees can be repealed. That is scary on the one hand but it is also the dread hand of hard if not strong leadership. A new public prosecutor for four years at a time? An assault on the judiciary but also a determination that the judiciary does not become over-powerful. Mursi can do what he likes in the name of his vision of democracy, progress and national unity.
Yet let us all get real and conjure up the memory of the early 1950s when the colonels took over. Mursi and Co are the modern religious colonels. It is, after all, pretty standard revolutionary take-over stuff.
What’s surprising is that anyone is surprised.
But wait a moment because the only people who are really surprised are the European news presenters in the safety of their air-conditioned high-paid studios. How could this be, they ask their correspondents who have been telling them that since June and Mursi’s coming, everyone but everyone here has been waiting for this.
The fooling is in the silly perception of democracy. You vote someone in, so that has to be democracy. Where does that idea come from? Democracy it is not. If there were jackboots in Egypt, we would have heard them coming.
The next thing to take on board is that this man,Mursi, is now Hillary Clinton’s Newest Best Friend. He’s Number One Regional Gaza Fixer. They like him in Washington. They, for the moment, may not like him in Jerusalem but they can do business with him. We all like him for fixing something we’re not even sure was fixed but certainly didn’t want it to go on. Mursi is top man.
So what now? No one outside Egypt will really care a button mushroom to upside down blancmange about the aspirations of the Arab Spring. If the riots get going we’ll watch from a distance. If the people of the square get gunned down on the authority of the Mursi decree we shall then care.
If we want anything to think about while we watch how this plays out, it could be this: the first casualty of revolution is the removal of an independent judiciary. That judiciary is the one hope of a society stripped of everything else.
If the Mursi decree is as uncompromising as we think it is – and not simply for his own Muslim Brotherhood followers – then the judiciary will be stripped of its independence. If that happens, then the Arab Spring will have achieved nothing.