Skip to main content

Give Morsy a chance to fix this

By Ed Husain, Special to CNN
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/04/middleeast/gallery/egypt-after-coup/index.html'>View photos of Egypt after the coup.</a> Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. View photos of Egypt after the coup.
HIDE CAPTION
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ed Husain: Hopes were high when Egyptians ousted Mubarak. Is the dream over?
  • Husain: Morsy broke the faith, but he deserves more time if he corrects mistakes
  • He says Morsy must be humble and the military must respect civilian leadership
  • Husain: Egypt's mess is of its own making; the solutions must be, too

Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of "The Islamist" can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain.

(CNN) -- Egyptians were the pride of the modern world when they overthrew their dictator in January, 2011. They proved to us that the cry for freedom and liberty was universal. That Arabs and Muslims were no different from others. Hopes were raised, but now the democratic dream is coming apart before our eyes as millions demonstrate against the Morsy government in Egypt. Is it too late to save Egypt's democracy?

Popular protests are the sign of a robust democracy. But the change in an elected government should be at the ballot box, not through mob violence.

Torching Muslim Brotherhood offices, attacking their leaders' homes and killing their activists is no way to oppose an elected president. Granted, the secular opposition forces in Egypt have genuine grievances. Morsy started his reign a year ago promising to appoint a female vice president and a Coptic Christian deputy. He failed to deliver on both counts, sending negative signals to Egypt's Christian communities and neglecting gender parity.

Ed Husain
Ed Husain

Morsy's team has been keen to show photos of him leading prayers at the palace more often than signing new trade and investment agreements. It is this failure to improve the lives of ordinary people -- in fact, making their lives worse since the revolution -- that has allowed the opposition to mobilize millions on the streets.

I have visited Egypt regularly since the revolution, and heard from people from across society about why they were still willing to give Morsy a chance. They said they understood it took time to reverse the decay of Mubarak's four decades. But they were not prepared for long queues outside gas stations, frequent electricity cuts, deaths in train accidents, and the steep decline in tourism, Egypt's economic lifeline.

Incompetence at the top was proven when the government declared a tax increase to match IMF requirements and then reversed the decision on Facebook in the wee hours of the night.

Egyptians are a proud people -- they may protest through Facebook, but do not expect to be governed by declarations on it. They are accustomed to being governed by well-spoken, strong presidential figures in Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Morsy has not been in command of his script when speaking in public, nor in control of his government's agenda, assuming he has one.

Morsy's many mistakes outdo his limited achievements. Yes, he instituted the country's new constitution, but it was done through an executive power grab with no judicial or parliamentary oversight. With the secular and liberal opposition forces isolated, Morsy and his broadly Islamist and Salafist supporters rammed through a hodgepodge constitution.

The claims and counter-claims in Egyptian politics, the blame and counter-blame, are incessant. But what's next? Bringing millions into the streets is impressive, but it is not a strategy for improving lives, or for creating the political stability that is required for economic prosperity. The tourists will not return, nor will international investment, so long as Egypt is drawing negative global headlines.

Is Morsy on the brink?
What comes next for Egypt's economy?
Egypt's military gives Morsy ultimatum

Morsy came to power through the ballot box, and should only be removed by it -- not through popular protests or a military coup. If Morsy were to resign, it is not clear who would succeed him. And in a year's time, with protesters' appetites whetted for new political heads to roll, we will be back in the same position of demands for new rulers.

With all his faults, and despite government resignations all around him, Morsy deserves more time in office. U.S. President Barack Obama was right not to call for his resignation. But more time in office cannot be full of mistakes like those of the last year.

First, Morsy's team needs to stop treating the opposition with arrogance and contempt. In an ideal world, the secular opposition leaders would be more constructive and accommodating. But you have to fight a battle with the soldiers you have, not the ones you want. Morsy needs to have the likes of opposition figures such as Mohamed ElBaradei, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fatouh, Hamdeen Sabbahi, and others around a table in a nationally televised dialogue.

The opposition needs to stand away from brinkmanship. The zero-sum game must end. It harms Egypt, and ordinary Egyptians.

Second, Morsi needs to speak out in public, and stick to his script in humility (no off-the-cuff remarks in colloquial Arabic), asking the Egyptian protesters for more time in government. Contrition from the president and a clearer vision can help sooth ordinary protesters. It needs to be a straightforward message that accepts past mistakes and lays out realistic promises to solve fuel shortages, power cuts, delays in instituting a parliament, and conflict with Egypt's judiciary, however difficult.

Third, Egypt's armed forces must stop flirting with protesters. In a democracy, the military answers to an elected civilian leadership. That culture is not yet instituted among the Egyptian generals. At the same time that Morsy is making concessions and promising deliverables on television, the generals should be stopping their ultimatums to their president.

Fourth, failing all of the above, Morsy needs to call early presidential elections and renew his legitimacy at a referendum. If the secular opposition wants a new president, let's see who they can offer to the Egyptian people. The Muslim Brotherhood may not support Morsy as their candidate, again. It remains to be seen.

Amid the instability in Egypt, blaming the United States has been easy but ultimately meaningless. Conspiracy theories of U.S. control may be cathartic to some, but they produce little to improve the country. Egypt's military, judiciary, media, and secular opposition leaders have blocked Morsy repeatedly. These were not U.S. actions. The mess in Egypt is of Egyptian making, but the solutions also lie within Egypt. Will Morsy rise to the challenge and unite a divided nation?

Follow CNN Opinion on Twitter.

Join the conversation on Facebook.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Husain.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT