November 28th, 2012
11:21 AM ET

Morsy’s overreach

By Isobel Coleman, Special to CNN

Isobel Coleman is a senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Democracy in Development originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own.

Well, at least President Mohamed Morsy knows when to retreat. Last week, basking in the glow of having helped broker a cease-fire in Gaza, Morsy issued a decree that in essence gave Egypt’s president power over the judiciary. But in the face of growing street protests, he now appears to be backpedaling away from that brazen push for broad new powers.

Morsy’s camp argued that this decree was just a stop-gap measure to allow the transition to proceed more smoothly and ensure that the constitution gets written. But history has few examples of leaders grabbing power in the course of a revolution only to hand it over to someone else “later.” Egyptians rightly took to the streets to protest against the coming of a new pharaoh. Some carried posters of Morsy’s face morphed with that of Mubarak.

Faced with growing street protests, a slew of resignations from senior government officials, a drop of nearly 10 percent in the stock market, and a looming strike from the judiciary, Morsy prudently seems to have compromised. This week, he agreed to continued judicial oversight over most matters although he did retain the right to stop the judiciary from dissolving parliament’s upper house as well as the constitutional assembly. However, uncertainty over what, exactly, the decree now means still remains.

More from CFR: Morsy's miscalculation

The constitutional assembly, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, has suffered significant attrition as about 25 percent of members – mostly progressives – have resigned in protest at the way the Islamists are dominating the process. Along with members, the assembly has been losing credibility; rumors abound that the judiciary was planning on dissolving it. But Morsy must realize that he can’t just decree stability. Indeed, undermining the country’s existing rule of law could be the most destabilizing path.

While the street protests undoubtedly got Morsy’s attention, I can’t help but wonder how much of an influence raw economics has played in this evolution of events. An IMF team was in Cairo over the past few weeks trying to wrap up the final details on a much-needed $4.8 billion loan. As I’ve previously noted, Egypt has experienced a worrisome deterioration in foreign currency reserves and faces a balance of payments crisis. Recent commitments from Qatar and Turkey have helped stabilize the country’s difficult financial situation, but its current level of reserves at $15.5 billion is still down by more than half since the end of 2010. The IMF loan is important not only because it’s a sizable package, but also because its seal of approval can unlock other capital flows. The loan had been previously held up for reasons that include political instability.

At the beginning of last week, Egypt announced that it had tentatively secured the long-discussed IMF loan – subject to final approval from the IMF board on December 19.  Morsy’s power grab led to worries that the accompanying political instability could potentially derail the loan, although Ashraf El-Arabi, Egypt’s minister of planning and international cooperation, insisted this wouldn’t be the case. But investors clearly didn’t like the trend.  Indeed, the Wall Street Journal called Sunday’s 9.6 percent drop in the EGX-30 Index the “biggest daily decline in Egyptian shares since the immediate aftermath of the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.”

Morsy faces an uphill battle: yes, the sooner the country has a credible constitution and stable government, the sooner investors will see Egypt as open for business, and tourists will be tempted back. I was in Aswan and Luxor earlier this month and can attest to how empty the hotels are. After reaching a peak of 14 million visitors in 2010, the tourism industry collapsed in 2011 and has yet to recover.

Part of the IMF agreement for the loan will be reform of the country’s unsustainably expensive subsidies, a process that is never easy (look at how riots against subsidy reform have rattled Nigeria and Jordan recently.) Having garnered 51.7 percent of the vote in June’s presidential election (versus the military’s candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s 48.3 percent), Morsy hardly has a broad popular mandate. He clearly overplayed his hand this time around. Let’s hope that he figures out how to use his political capital more wisely going forward.

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Topics: Egypt

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Amid economic collapse many Egyptians fear that Morsi's real agenda is to not protect the revolution, but to increase his power and that of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    November 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      He is surrounded by people, who want his political demise. The oppostion doesn't trust him and the remnants of the old regime don't support him.

      November 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Reply
      • Nick

        Like countries who "elect" communists, electing Islamists into power is viewed by many, myself included, as a guarantee that would be the last free election that people get.

        Once you establish that God and Sharia are the laws of the land, you can justify anything because who's going to argue with "God"?

        I have seen the Egyptians, hard working as I know them to be, vacilate and mire themself in indecision and their custom of leaving their future in the hands of fate: "Insha-allah" or "Ma-lesh", as a resigned answer to every misfortune that befell them. I am so proud now to see them stand up and feel that power they always had to guide their own destiny, and to not waste time about it any more.

        November 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
      • FactChecker

        Why should anyone trust him. It looks like he will try to take all power as soon as he can.

        December 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • GGOPA

      It does not take to be a genius as to what has taken place, Hillary Clinton heads to Egypt and all is resolved. Morsi replaces Mubarak and gets support from the Obama administration. Morsi gets its foreign aide and his bleesing to be another Mubarak after all the US-Egypt keep the alliance. The Jeweish state goes along because it get Obamas’ support and Morsi’s support just like Mubarak. Except the Egytians are not that stupid that is why they are up in arms. The Muslim Brotherhood are making some noise but they know they have to show some reluctancy too basic but then again it seems to be working. I forsee the Muslim brotherhood taking over the Middle East in the next four years but that is an opinion. Remember Winston Churchill “in 1921, in a speech to the House of Commons, he spoke of a militant Islam sect, the Wahabis, more violent than any in history, which would kill their own sisters for wearing the wrong attire. These fierce zealots would terrorize the West with bomb-carrying Jihadists who would burn embassies and destroy buildings by their passion to sacrifice their lives for guarantee of Islam heaven.”

      December 1, 2012 at 11:12 am | Reply
  2. Todd in DC

    Sheesh, the Egyptians just ditched Hosni Mubarak, and this yutz thinks he can just walk in and pull the same stunts?

    That'd be like the US electing Michele Bachmann as president and having her enact Sharia Christianity.

    And people call the US dumb!

    November 30, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • kalo

      Well who is calling the kettle black. Did not the US bring back Hitler himself???

      December 2, 2012 at 1:02 am | Reply
      • knucklecheese

        No, not really.

        December 3, 2012 at 9:26 am |
      • palintwit

        Pretty much.

        December 3, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  3. RobCM

    Just another Egyptian Strong man to run the country until he is over thrown.

    November 30, 2012 at 10:57 am | Reply
    • Amr Azim

      How much do you really know about Egypt? I bet not much. So, in the meantime – shut up!

      December 2, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
      • knucklecheese

        Don't be a rude jerk. Educate us. Tell us where we're wrong. Be part of the solution, not a bratty child.

        December 3, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  4. Michael Dean Fariss Minton Rollins Navaho-Sioux-Hopi Fraley Spoetzel Duerksen ( Von Durk)

    Hello: What is in a name? Michael Dean ( my dad , Dr Dean Fariss Duerksen ) Fariss ( Arabian Hero knight on horseback whom married in Sparta, Greece into the old Spartan army bloodline and the mother was Minton which is English lords; people whom live in manors...excuse me for saying, so on my dad's side is Fariss Arabian-Greek Spartan and Minton from his mother and from his dad, Cornelious Arthur Duerksen comes Spoetzel ( Shiner Bach ) and Von Durk ( which is the Holland Van Dirk royalty, German Siegfried counts, French royalty and Milesius of Spain,known as Gallamh and the Father of Ireland, father of Dorian, Spartan, Egyptian, Persian kings and the Von Durk name became Duerksen, Dirksen, Doerkson for some Dirks and Durks in the early 1500s, but Baron Von Durk, my great grandad changed his to Duerksen in the mid 1800s before leaving Frankfort, GER. Van Dirk is related to Oldenburg and Battenburg and these two family names is where the name Mountbatten and Windsor come from, and so I am related to the present monarchy in England both from the Van Dirk Von Oldenburgs and from the house of Milesius where they populated Ireland and Scotland for 2, 885 years with kings all the way to the present British monarchy. So we have Michael Dean Fariss Minton Rollins ( Rollo, king of the Vikings, King of Normandy, ten or more sons including William the Conqueror, US Marshalls and married all over European royalty including 2 Scottish kings whom were Rollins. Next there is Navaho-Sioux-Hopi on the Rolllins side which is my mother's side, Carol, from my great grandad US Army capt whom married a Navaho girl and the Navaho's are closely related to the Sioux and Hopi and Mayans. Lastly is Fraley which is the English version of the German Froehlich or Froelig name and very old and rich in history and fairly closely interwoven with the Rothschilds. As far as the Rothschilds go, I am about half Rothschild from the Van Dirk-Durk-Duerksen side due to the fact that more big families with Durk ties married into the main houses of the Rothschilds than any other including families from the Welsh Tudor kings ( Tudor, Thierry, Thies, Dietz, Diedes, Dietrich, Diderik and others are all other country ways of saying the Dirk-Duerksen name, so when you see a family related to the Tudors or Tudurs, of the Henry the VIII family, then you are looking at Duerksens ) and they married into the Rothschild family via such names as Clinton, Goldsmidth, Mullins, Phillips, Shaw, Smith, Stuart, Harris, Grant, Herbert, Beauchamp, Gilmour, Llewellyn, Brown, Potter, and from the other Dirk-Duerksen names comes Thierry, as in Herbert and Jacques, Levi, Von Worms, Von Dietz II, Samuel, Phillipe Maria Berthier de Rothschild, Prince of Wagram IV, La Tour de Auvergne Lauraquais, Beyfus, Meyer, and others....all related to, some closer than others, to the royal houses of Tudor, Thierry, Van Dirk, Von Durk, Duerksen, Oldenburg. Again that is Michael Dean Fariss Minton Spoetzel, Rollins Navaho Fraley Duerksen ( Baron Von Durk-Arabian Spartan, Minton lords, Spoetzel beer, Rollo, king of Vikings, Navaho tribes, Froehlich to Rothschild. ) Thankyou. Sincerely, Michael Duerksen

    November 30, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
    • Lou Cypher

      Thank you for demonstrating what is mean by the 'excited utterances' that come from chronic methamphetamine usage.

      December 1, 2012 at 8:54 am | Reply
      • Thierry ( Dirk) to Khan to Vlad Tepes to Duchess of York

        Response to ....." Lou Cypher ?

        Thank you for demonstrating what is mean by the 'excited utterances' that come from chronic methamphetamine usage". Ha. Just kidding. Michael Duerksen

        December 3, 2012 at 1:14 am |
  5. jim

    What?

    November 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
  6. jim

    It's Americas fault!!

    November 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Reply
    • Amr Azim

      How can it be America fault? You still think Egypt will listen to the USA? USA history compare to Egypt history is like comparing a baby (USA) with an Adult (Egypt). Egypt does not need the help from USA. For 35 years under Mubarak, USA paid money to Mubarak to shut up and he stole it for himself. What is probably going to happen now, is Egypt will make a business deal with the UAE to make sure that the money is really invested for Egypt people interest. No USA in the picture! The way it should be!

      December 2, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
      • Paul

        But america has grown up. Egypt is trying to get back to the 7th century.

        December 3, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  7. Porky Pig Jr

    Didn't like Mubarak's rule? Try Morsi iinstead!

    November 30, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  8. Dr. Salah Sultan

    Egypt must be governed according to the Sharia dictates of Islam. No other way will be allowed.

    December 1, 2012 at 2:05 am | Reply
    • Alex

      yes, its always good to apply medieval laws to modern day because people were so much smarter then. The sword weilding arabians on horses certainly exemplified human rights, especially for women. How could the world not be run with a bunch on insecure men in robes?

      December 1, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply
      • Amr Azim

        Sharia Law was meant for all times not medieval times as you so ignorantly stated. And yes, Sharia Law is the only way to go for Egypt!

        December 2, 2012 at 8:10 am |
      • Thierry ( Dirk) to Khan to Vlad Tepes to Duchess of York

        Insecure men in robes? 20, 000 plus years of Arabian knights married into the Spartan Army bloodline: Faris Arabian + Spartan Greek: " Insecure men in robes? " It reminds me of insecure men in suit and tie. It is my job to defend my position, and that position happens to be that I am related to the so-called " insecure men in robes."

        December 3, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Total2199

      This is the way to go!!! Good luck!!!! What else could be expected from islamofascists??

      December 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Reply
  9. arosel

    Morsy sounds like morsel.

    December 1, 2012 at 5:08 am | Reply
  10. Rick McDaniel

    That's what you see, everywhere Islam takes control. Everywhere! They will attempt to attack and take over, the entire free world. It is simply a matter of time.

    December 1, 2012 at 11:16 am | Reply
  11. ALan

    Morsy, Muslim Brotherhood do what they always do... Stretch/push the bounds , lie to cover their power grab.. then that new position becomes the normal after some grumbling. Stretch/push again, then there's less resistance, and the fear grows. Do this a few times, and soon there's no opposition and only fear. THen you have complete dominance.
    THe West just doesn't understand the minds of totalitarians, and by being passive thinking that democracy will prevail.. they have let the aggressors win and democracy/minorities die.

    December 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  12. jayakumar

    Though it tastes bad, I think the majority of the Egyptian people want an islamic state and Sharia law. Otherwise, why else did hey overwhelmingly vote for the muslim brotherhood which had clearly stated their religious fanatic inentions well before the elections. Unfortunately, it is true that the people who had a voice in the election were not the ones who had engineered the revolution which was done by the educated folks in Cairo. The majority of the electorate did not participate in the election or were too scared to defy Mubarak. The ones who did have the gut was actually a minority but a big minority sufficient to drive the dictator out of power. It is sad but true that the people are usually wrong and dont know what they want.

    December 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Reply
    • RLTJ's

      That majority of Egyptians want sharia law for electing Morsy could be very partial.

      The issue then was to dis-empower Mubarak. Next to that would be, who was better or the best among existing aspirants to the presidency. It showed him.

      Egypt is past all that.

      December 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  13. Ralph

    Time for a military coup in Eypt. Back to square one.

    December 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
  14. RLTJ's

    "He is surrounded by people, who want his political demise. The oppostion doesn't trust him and the remnants of the old regime don't support him."

    And it would be a big mistake for him to engage his detractors where they want it – a religious war.

    December 1, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  15. .

    Arab spring my ass. Try Islamofascist revolution.

    December 2, 2012 at 10:28 am | Reply
  16. Rick

    Of course he overplayed his hand. That's what wannabe dictators do!

    December 2, 2012 at 11:47 am | Reply
  17. jayCQ

    With Israel warring with the Iranian Gazans, the Jewish settlers forcing the Palestinian's hand, and the Iranian Syrians murdering the Sunni rebels, lets hope the Egyptians can learn a little about democracy to see that regardless of who wins an election, a gov't represents all its people. Sharia is many things to many people. God knows whatever laws He wants to see here on Earth. The Egyptians are not the only humans to struggle with the choices faced trying to birth justice. That said, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed will all be necessary inspirations for these people represented by Morsi. No big deal...

    December 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Reply
  18. knucklecheese

    Egypt isn't the US. Egyptians will do what Egyptians want to do. If the majority wants a dictatorship and Sharia Law, that's what they'll get. If they want liberty and (true) democracy, that's what they'll fight for. It's their business. Let them handle it. Clinton, Obama, Israel, the UAE, the UN, and everyone else needs to back off and let Egypt's people decide their own fate.

    December 3, 2012 at 9:34 am | Reply
  19. Me

    Eff them. Let them all burn.

    December 3, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  20. Michael Duerksen

    Michael Dean Minton Fariss ( Pharis-Faris-Pharoah-Ferguson-deFerrier, Fareed, same name variants of Fariss ) Rollins ( Rollo Viking kings, Normandy French Dukes, FrenchnCajun) Gallatt ( Gallant French Cajun) Kirby ( Kirkeby to Winston Churchill and George Windsor v king of England and father of Queen Elizabeth II ) Navaho Lloyd ( Hemingway) Lewis ( louis-Ludwig g-Leveson-MacLudhaide kings, Levi) Rothchild ( Andrew Fraley s mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother...) Fraley Spoetzell or Helena Ratslaff Duerksen died 1937 in Ok ) Duerksen ( From Baron Von Durk of Germany via Cornelious Duerksen and Baron is believed to have been a prince and from Durk royal lines to Holland Van Dirks, counts and dukes from rulers of Holland. Rothschild is Durk connected ancestrally and close marriages via Fraley which was Frolich until 100 years ago.Fariss Spartan Greek kings and soldiers are also Durk as is Egyptian Pharoahs. Mattatyahu-Mattathias-Mateo-Teo-Teodoric-Theodoric-Durk-Matthias-Matthew-Maat-Mattathiessen-Thiesen-Thies-Ties-Ty-Tiye-Dy-Die-Diet-Dietrich-Diederick-Duerk, Dirk, Derk-Derryk-Terry-Thierry-Till-Matthew-Thew-Tewdwr-Tudor....to oldenburg from Van Durk. Thankyou, Michael Duerksen

    August 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
  21. Michael Duerksen

    On the above comment: Rothschild: is an ancestrally related name on the Duerksen-Von Durk side of the family, and Von Durk is the true name ancestrally, since all the Duerksens in my blood line were known as Von Durk prior to the name change with Baron Von Durk around 1875 in Germany. All Duerksen families including those with different spellings such as Dirksen, Durksen, Doerksen and others originated with Van Dirk Von Durk, Dirk, Durck, Dierck, and others the Van and Von being specifications og royal family lines. Since Duerksen or Von Durk, etc..are evolved from Mattatyahu, Matthias, Mateo, Maat, Mattatheissen, Thiessen,...etc then all families are of the oldest surname in the world and do ebolve into Chinese Emperors, emperors of India, Egytian Pharoahs, Spartan kings and the like, then it can be concluded that this bloodline, defined as ruler of the people, is comprised of hundreds of kings and emperors. My emphasis here is our relatedness to Rothschild, but I will deviate a little more in saying that when you are speaking of Sparta anf Egyptian kings and Pharoahs that it is not only a Duerksen-Von Durk affair, it is also Fariss-Phariss-Pheries surname issue since Duerksen, son of Durk , is also related to Fariss which is ancestrally and historically correct but is also one of our familie's
    ' s surnames on my dad's mother's side, that of Peter Fariss, the Durk name being about ten thousand or more years old when Mateo, Matthias, Mattathiessen began to evolve into Durk, Dietrich, Diederick, Thierry Tudor related names married into the Spartan anf Egyptian pharoahs starting with the first Pharoah about 8000 bc that of Mizraim whom appears to be a Faris-Pharis which is also Pharoah as a surname. Anyway, Durk and Fariss surnames sre related at the points of Sparta and Egypt, but also due to the marital relationship between Duerksen and Fariss on my dad's side. The discussion should not stop there however since I am also a Fraley ( Frohlich) on my Grandad Andrew Fraley's side, that is via Carol Gallatt Kirby Navaho Rollins Fraley Duerksen's side....Fraley beinf the same as Frolich and Frolich is Ashkenazi, the ancient surname that relates also to Treves, Assyria, Levi, and ancient kings of Spain leading to Milesius or Gallahm, the Father of Ireland. Fariss and Frohlich appear to meet at Phatoah and Pheries, the king of Sparti area, roughly 5000 bc and so it is tempting to believe that Frohlich anf Fariss are the same bloodline.
    As Fraley is concerned with Rothschild, my grandad Andrew Fraley is understood to have a 7th greatgrandmother and two others that are Rothschilds, both he and his sibling Dick....but there is reason to believe that some think there are more. I have never met anyone in the Rothschild family, and it is not hard to believe that Fraley and Rothschild fo infact intersect via 123 or so US marriages. Thankyou for reading this message. Sincerely, Michael Duerksen
    I

    August 26, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Reply

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