Mohamed Morsi is facing one of the most daunting tasks a political leader could face - how to stabilize a post-revolution democracy. He avows, "with all honesty and impartiality," to end the transitional period as soon as possible and in a way that "guarantees the newly-born democracy". His logic is that in order to get anything done, in order to guarantee any of the changes the people have rallied for, he must temporarily take total control of the reigns in order to do so. It's a scary and tricky paradox: that a leader must take episodic, total control . . . He's playing with fire here, but swears he will give up his sweeping powers once the new constitution is approved by a referendum.
Can we trust him? . . .
This is a man who, after being elected, stepped down from his position within the Brotherhood and vowed that, under his leadership, Egypt would be an inclusive, civilian state. In a speech on the day he took his oath of office, Morsi promised dignity and social justice. He declared that "no institution will be above the people", critiquing the military. "You are the source of authority," he told the throngs. Under his rule, Egypt negotiated the most recent ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, and Morsi himself expressed solidarity with Gaza.
Clearly the anxious populace will not fall for this rhetoric, no matter how tantalizing the promises are that he makes. But history shows that sometimes a wild, total autocratic move will later make sense - from the right side of history. No matter what he does, he's going to be forced to get his hands dirty as he deals with the volatility of a post-revolution state, seeking to anchor a democracy where it never has been before. The question is: are the risks and compromises he's taking worth undergoing to the Egyptian citizens? Is the choice they face: Morsi, or no change? Though it's hard to tell from this moment in time, perhaps its too soon to judge him. We could look back at this moment from a later point in history and see that Morsi was an agent of change: even if his recent decrees prove sinister- this could have the counter-effect of fueling the revolutionary force with even more power.
Meanwhile, let's be frank: he freed himself entirely from judicial oversight last week. But there is a method to his madness, apparently: “The people wanted me to be the guardian of these steps in this phase,” he said in a written statement, emphasizing that it was his duty to “protect the revolution.” In response to this, tens of thousands of angry protestors have swarmed the Presidential Palace, crying out that he's a tyrant who has illegitimately seized power, sloughed off the judiciary, and wrote a contentious draft constitution. Though he may turn out to be just that, this revolution is still unfolding in real-time, isn't it too early to tell?
Morsi is destined for a legacy of notoriety. Is this not the fate for all those, who at times of revolutionary fervor, took power and got things done on the world-stage - receiving, of course, fraught reviews of mixed glory and outrage. During the Russian Revolution, critics labeled Lenin a dictator guilty of murdering the royal family, but supporters hailed him a champion of the working class. And history tells us the Russian Revolution simply would not have happened without him and his deeds - which were both valiant, and dirty. Revolutions just are dirty affairs: someone has to be ruthless to pull it off.
Is Morsi the Lenin of the Egyptian Revolution?
Is all fair in love and...revolutions?