Erdoğan’s lessons for Morsi, and vice versa

Erdoğan’s lessons for Morsi, and vice versa

There is a Turkish love song that could be used as an analogy for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s relationship with power: They found it too late and are losing it too early.

It is not clear what is going to happen on Monday, when the stance of the opposition National Salvation Front will become clearer regarding Morsi’s step to “give back” some of the authority over the judiciary that he had assumed last week. However, Morsi is insistent on holding on Dec. 15 the constitutional referendum to give him more powers and also to make Islamic rule, Sharia, the basis of the system in Egypt. The opposition wants the referendum to be canceled, and even Morsi supporters have no idea how a proper referendum could be carried out while a wave of antagonism is taking hostage of the whole of Egyptian society. On Sunday, when two F-16 jets flew low over the capital Cairo, more people realized how serious the situation was. The army, which is currently behind Morsi, has already issued a warning to politicians to put themselves together and not drag the country to the point of no return.

It appears that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan was among the foreign statesmen who called Morsi up - in the middle of his 11-hour meeting after which he stepped back – to try to get him to revise his decision to assume sweeping powers over the judiciary and the Parliament “by making use of the deep rooted traditions of Egypt,” according to official Turkish sources.

Having been backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi came to power on June 24 with nearly 52 percent of the votes, in the first free elections in modern Egypt’s history, following the Tahrir Revolution that brought Hosni Mubarak’s regime down. Within six months of Morsi’s election his power is now questioned, not only in his country’s Parliament, or on the same streets of the capital that brought him to his presidential chair, but also in the international forum as well.

Erdoğan, as a prime minister who was able to reach nearly 50 percent support in the ninth year of his power in 2011 - and as a person who should have drawn enough lessons by now that vote support is not everything in a democracy - must have meant that Morsi should “slow down” in trying to achieve the political goals he has.

He, for example, had to withdraw from having early local elections in order to secure more space for him to maneuver for the 2014 presidential elections. But he also presented a draft to Parliament’s Constitutional Conciliation Commission to shift to a Presidential system with more control over Parliament and the judiciary and with lesser checks and balances. This has created a reaction even among the supporters of his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). Prominent columnist Fehmi Koru wrote on Sunday in daily Star newspaper that “democracy is also about the restriction of power,” giving the case of the Mongolian Khan Hulagu as a bad example.

Speaking of journalists, Peter Preston, who headed an International Press Institute (IPI) delegation to Turkey last week, wrote for The Observer on Sunday: “Erdogan can and does single out columnists for criticism. They can and quietly do lose their jobs.” The article carried the headline: “Ask writers in Turkey’s jails what state regulation is like.”

Erdoğan was right to tell Morsi to listen to the opposition, and perhaps the Morsi case also has some lessons to draw for Erdoğan - showing once again that vote support does not simply mean that the leader should have across-the-board power.