In Egypt, a Clash Over Who’s a Threat to Democracy
President Mohamed Morsi speaks darkly of imminent threats from a conspiracy of unnamed foreign enemies and corrupt businessmen. He vows to uncover counterrevolutionaries hiding under judicial robes. His advisers charge that loyalists of the former dictator have infiltrated the opposition, saying it would gladly sacrifice democracy to defeat the Islamists.
In a one-week blitz, Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood cast aside two years of cautious pragmatism in an effort to seize full control of Egypt’s political transition. Mr. Morsi decreed himself above the reach of the courts until completion of a new constitution. He went around the laws to install his own public prosecutor in a stated drive to go after those who abused power or reaped profits under the old government. And his Islamist allies in the constitutional assembly rammed through a charter over the objections of their secular opposition and the Coptic Christian Church.
As hundreds of thousands of their supporters rallied on Saturday in Cairo, this flash of authoritarianism in Egypt’s Islamist leaders has aroused a new debate here about their stated commitment to democracy and pluralism at a time when they dominate political life.
Mr. Morsi’s advisers call the tactics a regrettable but necessary response to genuine threats to the political transition from what they call the deep state — the vestiges of the autocracy of former President Hosni Mubarak, especially in the news media and the judiciary. On Saturday, Mr. Morsi pushed ahead with the new constitution, calling a referendum for Dec. 15.