3 weeks in, Egypt still wondering what Morsi stands for

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 16, 2012 

— Three weeks after Egypt’s first democratically elected president took office, Egyptians are still awaiting answers on basic questions such as who will serve in his Cabinet and what constitutional authorities the president will have.

They were no closer to answers Tuesday as a key court delayed several decisive rulings, while President Mohammed Morsi praised the old military-appointed government even as he is supposed to name a new one.

Egypt’s Administrative Court delayed until July 19 its ruling on several key cases, including whether the constitutional assembly tasked with drafting a permanent constitution is legal. The court is also considering the dissolution of the upper house of Parliament and whether the ruling military council had the authority to amend the country’s interim constitution, which it did just minutes after polling stations closed in the election that Morsi won. The amendments prohibited Morsi from making key decision without military approval, including examining the military’s budget.

On Tuesday, hundreds gathered inside the court’s chambers and outside the building to await a ruling that never came.

“Where is the state? Where is the justice?” spectators inside the courtroom shouted.

Morsi, who ran as the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, has supported the Brotherhood’s demand that Parliament be reinstated – the military council dissolved it after the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that a third of its members had been elected illegally – while at the same time he’s ratified laws in the absence of a legislative body. Some see the conflicting actions as Morsi’s effort to reach out to the military after challenging the Supreme Constitutional Court and the military council last week by calling the dissolved Parliament into session.

But it’s added to a sense of confusion about where the country’s new leader stands on the issue of Parliament’s legitimacy.

Morsi added to that confusion Tuesday by praising the existing, military-picked Cabinet, calling it “efficient,” raising questions about how pressing the president believes it is to name his own government.

In a graduation ceremony at the country’s military academy, Morsi praised Prime Minister Kamal el Ganzouri. Before his election, Morsi was highly critical of the same government, calling it “weak and fragile” in a May television interview.

The uncertainty over the way ahead comes just as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finished her first visit to Egypt since Morsi’s inauguration. During her visit, Clinton urged the military to work with Morsi, even though he was a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been banned for much of its 84-year existence. The push by the United States seemed to have little impact. Hours after she left, Field Marshal Mohammed Tantawi said that Egypt will not be dominated by a “certain faction.”

Ismail and Naggar are McClatchy special correspondents.

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