Why is Mohamed Morsi governing badly?
Egypt’s president is acting like a business executive who is overly anxious to close a deal. Little remains of the presidential post-revolutionary figure, elected with 50 percent of the vote. Morsi’s transformation is largely due to his decision to make himself, the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council immune to the judiciary, and he has now decided to push ahead with the constitutional referendum in a haphazard way.
Why is Morsi acting like a business executive rather than a president? Egyptians are increasingly feeling that the only thing separating Morsi from his predecessor is a good shave, and I can’t blame them. The new elite just don’t know how to govern a country like Egypt effectively.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood elite have inherited a corrupt police state with failing institutions. Crime was rising, with failures like the Manfalut bus crash happening daily. They had to act fast. Without governing experience of their own, the only model they had was that of their former oppressors. For every mundane problem, the new elite started asking themselves what the National Democratic Party (NDP) guys, (Mubarak’s party), would have done. But that, of course, is exactly how Egypt became a defunct police state in the first place. Let me remind you that it was ignoring the non-elite that led to the revolution.
I think this is a point where a comparison to Turkey is very helpful. It was Turkey’s municipalities that transformed “our” Islamists. Egypt had no free and fair elections for local administrations. In Turkey, they became part of the administrative structure years before they were able to form their own government. Free elections and solving mundane every day problems is what governance is about. Turkey’s Islamists thus gained experience in taking into account the views of others. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected as the mayor of Istanbul in 1994 before becoming the prime minister of Turkey. Governing Istanbul, mind you, is not much different than governing Turkey as a whole. Needless to say, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood elite had no similar experience when they came to power.
When Morsi was laying out his 100-day program after the elections, a friend of mine likened it to the first 100-day program of a city mayor in Turkey. It was all about garbage collection and grams of bread. This goes to show that Egypt is more centralized than Turkey. The president of Egypt is also the mayor of all cities, making all daily decisions. Egypt definitely needs a decentralization strategy. Municipalities are good areas for opposition groups to come of age.
This is one more reason why Turkey cannot be a model for the Egyptian transformation, and why Hosni Mubarak and the NDP elite are also guilty for Morsi’s poor governance.