Egyptian President Morsi Says His Power Grab Is Temporary. History Says Otherwise
Egypt’s muddled transition from dictatorship to democracy has entered a dangerous phase with the president and his Islamist supporters arrayed against the rest - each side claiming to be the true defender of democracy and the revolution. President Morsi says his controversial decree (euphemistically called “constitutional declaration”) is only a provisional measure to defend the revolution and ensure a swift passage to democracy. And a presidential spokesman has now said that only decisions related to “sovereign matters” will be protected from judicial review. He may be sincere. But exceptional temporary measures in Egypt have a history of becoming permanent.
Back in 1954, Colonel Nasser, the leader of the military coup that overthrew the monarchy, abolished all political parties in order to fight the “reactionary forces” of the ancient regime. To this day, Egypt is still struggling to extricate itself from his legacy of an all-powerful president who rules by decrees with the help of a secret police.
Back then, the judiciary, like today, played a crucial role. The midwives of Nasser’s dictatorship were some of Egypt’s finest legal minds who had lost faith in the old ruling elite. Political expediency superseded lofty legal and constitutional principles, and justice itself became the first victim of revolutionary justice.