Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

Topic Debate: Mohamed Morsi for President

On 30 June, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected civilian president. Though this was a truly momentous occasion in the country’s 4,000 year history, recent events make clear that Egypt’s transition from the Arab Spring ouster of President Hosni Mubarak is still in progress.

Since our previous Topic Debate on the Egyptian presidential elections, the possibility of a seamless transition from military rule toward popular democracy seems increasingly tenuous. A week before the run-off election between Mohamed Morsi and his opponent, former prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a supplementary constitutional declaration that dissolved parliament and restored itself as the legislative power. Though concerning, it was expected that SCAF would do this if and when the liberals and Islamists in parliament were unable to agree upon a 100-member committee to draft a new constitution. Under this latest constitutional declaration, SCAF reserved a significant role in drafting the new constitution as well as limiting the power of the incoming president.

Adding to the complexity of the situation is what some refer to as “The Salafi Awakening,”  and the question of how much this new player in Egyptian politics could influence and possibly challenge U.S. interests in the country and throughout the region. Georgetown University professor Daniel Byman, in a piece he co-authored for The National Interest with his research assistant Zack Gold, explains:

“Many of the problems the U.S. has with the Salafis reflect mainstream Egyptian public opinion. Hence, far from being radical outliers, Egypt’s Salafis represent a kind of barometer on the thinking of significant elements of the country’s population, and any democratic leaders will take these feelings into account.”

Nonetheless, Egyptian politics are still in flux and it is unclear what form the country’s internal affairs will take in the coming months when a new constitution is enacted. The following Topic Debate rounds-up a variety of responses and analyses looking at the elections, the successes and failures of Egypt’s revolution, and implications for U.S. foreign policy with the country.

  • In an op-ed for the New York Times, Joshua Stacher, an assistant professor of political science at Kent State, explains “How the Army Won Egypt’s Election”: “In the latest grand spectacle manufactured by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the generals symbolically respected the people’s choice while using the election to further entrench their unaccountable political autonomy.”
  • In line with the criticism of the Egyptian military’s grip on power, Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, writes in The Atlantic his take on “The Real Reason the U.S. Should Consider Cutting Military Aid to Egypt.”
  • Foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal Bret Stephens holds the opinion that “Egypt is Lost” both domestically and with regard to U.S. foreign policy in the region.
  • Mark Lynch, associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, responded to Stephens’ and other similar arguments on his Foreign Policy blog: “This isn’t the time for silly debates about ‘who lost Egypt’ since against all odds Egypt isn’t lost. On the contrary, it has just very, very narrowly avoided complete disaster – and for all the problems which Morsi’s victory poses to Egypt and to the international community, it gives Egypt another chance at a successful political transition.”
  • Issandr El Amrani, who founded the The Arabist, a site designed to inform a western audience from the Arab perspective, seems neither optimistic nor pessimistic but rather highlightsthe considerable scope of uncertainty: “So many questions remain unanswered that what can best be said is that either SCAF and the [Muslim Brotherhood] have worked out a deal of some sort or the political jousting has only just begun.”

What do you think about the results of the Egyptian election? How do you think this will affect U.S. interests?

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