RUBIN: Time for Morsei to pay heed
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.
On Thursday, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to upgrade Palestine to nonmember state observer status (the vote was 138 in favor, with 41 abstentions, and only nine opposed, including the United States, Canada and Israel). This vote was a positive, since it re-enshrines the principle of two separate states for Israel and the Palestinians at a time when fundamentalists on both sides say there should be only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Down that road lies the end of the Jewish, democratic state.
The vote in Egypt worries me more. On Friday, the Islamist-dominated body charged with drafting Egypt's new constitution approved a problematic document over the vehement objections of non-Islamists, whose representatives boycotted the balloting. The battle over Egypt's identity has now returned to the streets.
Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi, a man of the Muslim Brotherhood, seized nearly absolute power last month when he issued a decree putting himself above the judiciary. He feared that a high court was about to dissolve the constitutional assembly on the basis that its selection was illegal. He said his decree was temporary until the draft charter is put to a popular vote Dec. 15.
Now the struggle for Egypt
The good news is that once-passive Egyptians have become so politicized, they won't let a leader behave like a pharaoh. On something as critical as the new constitution, Morsi must seek a political consensus.
The country cannot stabilize until those elections are held, which cannot legally happen until after the constitutional referendum. So Morsi was desperate to speed up the political process and behaved like a traditional Egyptian leader
The root of Morsi's problem can be traced to the makeup of the constitutional assembly. His party insisted it should reflect the result of parliamentary elections, which gave three-quarters of the seats to Muslim Brotherhood or Salafi candidates. Yet the Brotherhood's popularity dipped in the months after that election, and Morsi got only 51.7 percent of the presidential vote.
In a divided country, the constitutional drafting body should have been far more inclusive.
Critics say the final draft still provides inadequate protection of freedom of expression and religion, gives the president too much power and fails to extend civilian control over the military. It lacks the credibility that can only be conferred by an open and fair process.
That said, the opposition also shares blame for the standoff. A key reason the Islamists did so well at the polls is that opposition groups failed to unify against them. Galvanized by Morsi's mistakes, opposition leaders are now coalescing into a
In the new Egypt, the non-Islamist opposition must learn the art of tough political negotiating. It must also convince voters
Trudy Rubin is a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
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