Mursi Sworn in as Egyptian President

However, he and his party have hardly taken over.

Via the BBC:  Brotherhood’s Mursi sworn in as Egyptian president.

Of course, there is a rather fundamental question on the table now:  what does being president of Egypt even mean at this point?  Is he  a figurehead intended to put a veneer of legitimacy on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ power or will he actually be in a position to shepherd in a new constitutional order?  At the moment, it looks like the former and not the latter.  Indeed, it would seem that at the moment the president lacks any formal powers or responsibilities.  As the story notes:

The regime of former President Hosni Mubarak is still largely intact and many in it will not work with the new president, [regional analyst Magdi Abdelhadi] adds.

Mursi, at least publically, seem to think otherwise:

Parliament was dissolved by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), which assumed legislative powers under a controversial “interim constitutional declaration”.

The Scaf is due to hand over power to Mr Mursi later on Saturday.

“The army now returns to his original role, protecting the nation and its borders,” Mr Mursi said.

Parliament, the new president insisted, had been elected in a free and fair ballot and had been entrusted with drafting a new, democratic constitution.

We will see.  The fact of the matter is that the military was the undergirding power of the Mubarak regime and that has not changed with Mubarak’s ouster.  For example:

Maj Gen Mohamed al-Assar, a Scaf member, told Egyptian media earlier that the head of Scaf, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, would remain as defence minister under Mr Mursi.

So, in other words, no civilian control of the military.

In terms of at least a slice of popular sentiment regarding Tantawi:

When the Scaf leader arrived at Cairo University for Mr Mursi’s speech, hostile students standing outside chanted “The people want to execute the field marshal”, according to Egyptian news website Al-Misri al-Yawm.

While alarmists and Islamophobes will declare that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over Egypt (for example here, here, and  here), it is more than a little difficult to objectively look at the situation and state that power is anywhere but in the hands of the SCAF.   Further, the election of a Mursi over a member of the Mubarak regime only demonstrates a rejection of the past by the electorate and not much of anything else.  Beyond that it rather taints any attempt at actual analysis to run and hide behind the couch just because the word “Muslim” is uttered in the context of elections.  But, of course, the Becks and Limbaughs of the world (two of those linked above) aren’t interested in analysis, since fear mongering gets better ratings.

If one actually values the notion of a democratic transition, this is not a positive situation.  The military does not appear to have any interest in giving up power.  This means that either Egypt is going to engage in a dance of faux reform while the military simply continues to consolidate its position or popular frustration with the lack of real reform will ignite further public upheaval.

There are no easy and simple routes here for Egypt, but we do need an honest assessment of the power situation on the ground as well as putting the Islamophobia away.

FILED UNDER: Africa, World Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Any takers on how long before we release the 1993 WTC bombers as a “good will gesture” and to help support Mursi?

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Thank God everything is going to be okay now.

  3. SKI says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I’ve got a grand that says it doesn’t happen in the next year.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Collectively we have 1.3 billion that says it doesn’t happen.

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    If I had a grand, I’d seriously consider putting that up. After all, we just had this little development.

    One newly-elected member of Egypt’s parliament is a leader of the Gamaa Islamiya, an Islamist group that was banned by Mubarak and is officially listed as a terrorist group by the US. Said leader was just in the US at the invitation of the State Department, and he says he brought up transferring the group’s spiritual leader — the aforementioned Omar Abdel Rahman, who headed up the 1993 World Trade Center bombing — to an Egyptian prison.

    By law, the newly-elected lawmaker should have been banned from entering the US as a known member of a terrorist group. Instead, he was invited to come to the US and discussed freeing the man behind that bombing.

    You didn’t really think that the Lockerbie bomber going free was a fluke, did you? Yeah, it wasn’t the US or Egypt, but the precedent is there.

  6. mattb says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: How about this:

    We can either lower the amount of that bet and make it to the charity of our choice

    OR, better yet, simply the person who loses has to publicly announce that they don’t know what the heck that they are talking about.

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @mattb: Let’s see… if I take the bet, then suddenly the discussion becomes about personalities and is postponed for several months at least — in practical terms, it’s over.

    Why would you want that instead of actually discussing things on their own merits? Instead of rebutting my argument and citing your own examples of why you think I’m wrong?