It’s not clear why Egypt’s first democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi decided to tarnish his international image by revealing dictatorial tendencies that have his countrymen out in Tahrir Square again. What is surprising is that he has given himself sweeping power and immunity over the way he exercises this power at the very moment his international reputation soared due to his successful mediation of the Israel
and Hamas ceasefire.
Whatever the reason, Morsi’s move shows that the Arab Spring
still has some distance to go yet before it spawns true democracy in the region. Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are now expected to throng to the streets of Cairo under the “Justice and Stability” banner in order to support Morsi against his political rivals. This reliance on crude numbers - also the case for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey – is, however, the best indication that Islamists have not quite grasped the meaning of true democracy.
True democracy is never a simple question of crude numbers. First and foremost democratically elected governments do not have the right to tamper with the democratic system itself and whittle away at the rights of those who did not vote for them. Secondly this system of government protects the rights of the opposition and of minorities against the “oppression of the majority.” Thirdly true democracy is the system whereby a party knows how to go once it looses its democratic support.
The spirit of these basic facts is clearly not part and parcel of Morsi’s outlook judging by his attempt at grabbing power for himself in order to strengthen his hand against his political rivals, under the guise of seeking “justice and stability.” Morsi claims he will give these powers up when stability is attained. Many find this hard to believe given that he has taken on more powers than Hosni Mubarak ever claimed.
History does not have many examples of leaders who have given up the extraordinary powers they once took on in the name of democracy. İsmet İnönü, Turkey’s second president and subsequent prime minister who is much vilified by Erdoğan and Turkish Islamists today, is a rare case.
All of this comes at a time when Erdoğan is eyeing the presidency, which he wants to turn into an executive office by 2014 when presidential elections are due to occur. The AKP argues that a strong presidential system will bring stability in the implementation of policy by overcoming debilitating political haggling. But it does not say what the checks and balances that will constrain Erdoğan as president will be.
This is why Morsi’s move acts as a warning for Turks who have increasing concerns as to what lies in Erdoğan’s heart-of-hearts. His autocratic tendencies – which he clearly bases on the power of numbers - are already there to behold. His attempt to have a popular TV series depicting the court of “Suleiman the Magnificent” banned on the grounds that it insults our history is the latest case in point.
Historians say the series is rubbish, even if it makes for good viewing and brings in ratings. This was also the case with the “The Tudors” in Britain. It is unthinkable, that any British prime minister would try and have a TV series banned on such grounds.
There were some indications on Monday that Morsi might back down somewhat. If he does so, however, one wonders whether this will be because of Egyptians who have taken to the streets in the name of democracy, or the fact that the Egyptian stock exchange dropped by a dramatic 10 percent as soon as he announced he would be taking on extraordinary powers.
Morsi and Erdoğan may rely on the power of crude numbers to pursue their agendas, but there are certain numbers they can ill afford to overlook unless they are prepared to drag their countries to economic and social chaos in the name of promoting an Islamist agenda, hidden or otherwise.