Mehmet Ali writes from Cairo: So, President Mohamed Morsi has got his mandate. Well, sort of. Well, not really a mandate in the proper sense of the word for he is really creating a dictatorship to suit himself. Bound to end in tears though.
Anyway, the new Egyptian constitution has been approved by 63.8 per cent and the country has entered a new era. Half the judges had refused to monitor the voting process while journalists and independent observers were denied access to polling stations. The ruling Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was determined to get the constitution approved – whatever it took. The opposition is already crying foul. The Vice President has resigned during the vote, saying that politics no longer interested him. Mind you, the new constitution does away with the post of Vice President altogether. So he basically jumped before he was pushed.
With about 30 per cent of the population illiterate (65 per cent of them are women), it is difficult to understand how these people could have decided whether the new constitution was any good. The great majority of the educated Egyptians are against it. They are the big losers. Cairo and Alexandria were hotbeds of the ‘no’ vote. It will be interesting to see how these cities vote in the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.
Sharia is now the bedrock of law. After all, Egypt is a Muslim country. The rub is that Muslim clerics from the Al Azhar foundation will be asked to advise on the interpretation of the law. So the serried ranks of existing lawyers will gradually be marginalised. Secular courts could give way to Sharia courts. Presumably MB supports would favour such a move. So Egypt faces a gradual move towards a theological mode of rule. This will cut it off from Western norms and influence.
So how will the secularists in Egypt react? They will maintain that the constitution is flawed and push for amendments. Greater protection for women and minorities will be demanded. The constitution only recognises Islam, Judaism and Christianity as religions. Buddhists, Daoists and other world religions will have no protection.
President Morsi faces problems which only a superman could solve. One third of the population is under 15 years of age and two thirds under 35. Those under 15 want good health care and better education. Those over 15 want a job. Can Morsi deliver? Of course not. Why not?
He needs stability. But the secularists will not afford him that luxury. They will highlight the problems and declare that he is betraying the revolution. Without stability there is little likelihood of direct foreign investment pouring in. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will demand a balanced budget and less emphasis on the state sector. The European Union may push some funds Morsi’s way as a gesture of goodwill. Large western corporations will stay away until stability is on its way.
What does that leave? Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States support Morsi and favour an Islamist agenda. This runs counter to the aspirations of the United States and leading European countries. However if one takes a closer look at the economies of these Muslim powers, one finds they are based on oil, gas and financial skills. They are incapable of developing the Egyptian economy from the bottom up. So who can provide the capital and skills to do this? The prime contender is China. However China in the outside world concentrates on hydrocarbons, minerals and agricultural land. Egypt has little oil and gas but Israel has discovered deposits in the eastern Mediterranean. Are there large deposits waiting to be discovered around the coasts of Egypt? Cairo is hoping so. Cairo needs something dramatic to rescue it.