Adopting the new constitution concludes the transitional phase which those in power used as an excuse for the instability of this period and to justify their failure to fulfill their electoral promises. They have at least two months to propose and implement a comprehensive action plan that expresses the ambitions and goals of the Egyptian revolution.
It is no secret that the promises of “change” that the Muslim Brotherhood made during their electoral campaigns, using such slogans as “Islam is the solution” and “Renaissance Project” and “Candidate of the revolution,” have not produced a comprehensive political project.
The platform they campaigned for during parliamentary elections was broad and did not name the priorities of the legislative agenda or an action plan within a specific timeframe.
The Renaissance Project, which during elections was said to be a comprehensive project to boost Egypt to the ranks of advanced countries within four years, has not materialized yet. Its advocates later admitted it is “an intellectual project” that still needs to be developed.
Ascension to power was not coupled with a mature project for change and Muslim Brotherhood promises at various stages were not based on an actual understanding of reality, regulating workflow, helping achieve progress or making promises that can be fulfilled.
As a result of this political inadequacy, the Brotherhood was surprised at every stage with challenges they did not anticipate. The absence of a project and comprehensive vision (and thus lack of political imagination) prevented them from reacting effectively with these, which was another reason blocking them from fulfilling their promises.
Then they alleged these challenges existed because there was no progress, even though they existed before promises were made. Thus, using them as an excuse — which implies they had not prepared to address them — is an excuse worse than not making progress.
The Muslim Brotherhood won the majority of parliamentary seats during last year’s elections and the people expected them to fulfill their promise to resolve economic problems and accomplish some of the demands of the revolution. But many of the issues discussed in the few months that parliament was in session did not seriously address the problems of income gaps (albeit for ratifying a minimum wage but not income), or even distribution of economic resources in a manner that achieves social justice.
Neither did it include reform of key state institutions in a manner that revolutionaries demanded through purging and internal restructuring, enforcing the power of the judiciary and blocking military penetration of civilian spheres. The Muslim Brotherhood's legislative agenda did not include purging the political arena of symbols of corruption (the law of sequestration came too late and was proposed by non-Brotherhood members of parliament).
It was only a few weeks before the popularity of the parliamentary majority began to wane because their priority and proposed issues did not correspond to pressing social and political matters. It attempted to blame the government for this failure (and the government no doubt is responsible for the most part, but what needed explanation was the position of this majority regarding the government, and misreading its position and efficiency). It insisted that the people were blaming parliament for the government’s failures and not its own shortcomings.
The next step was to maintain popularity by forming a government. The speaker of the house asserted that parliament could dissolve a government, but then he failed to do so. He did not blame his own misjudgment of the situation or lack of statecraft by key MPs, but instead the intransigence of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), as if that were a surprise. The solution was to launch the presidential race in order to take direct control of the executive branch.
Then parliament was dissolved and the constitutional declaration that followed placed restrictions on the president’s executive powers. Although many asked the president to reject taking over power according to this declaration, he insisted that the declaration did not limit his powers and there was no need to enter a dispute with the top brass on the issue.
A few weeks later, the Muslim Brotherhood were making excuses for the president’s failures because his powers were deemed eroded by the military, and the situation continued until the 12 August decree. At the time, the rulers suggested that this was the real date that the president took to power and everything before did not count because he did not have full powers.
But holding both the legislative and executive powers in the absence of a project was not enough to fulfill the promises of the first 100 days that the president made during his campaign. As usual, the excuse was not failure or misjudgment but outside factors: most notably, the intransigence of the judiciary, although its problem could have been easily resolved in the beginning with a decree on judicial powers.
The rulers claimed the judiciary was interfering in the executive mandate of the president, which restricts his executive and legislative powers. Thus a constitutional declaration was issued giving the president absolute powers before he was forced to give it up after pressure from the street.
Meanwhile, there was talk of “the need for political stability,” since its absence causes economic and security crises and this stability would be achieved through the constitution that was recently approved in a public referendum over the past two weeks.
According to its supporters, most prominently the president and his party, the constitution regulates relations between various powers (which means there can be no more claims that the judiciary is interfering in the mandate of the president). They also proclaimed that the constitution lays down economic foundations that will achieve fair growth and reduce income gaps.
With the president’s party as a majority in the Shura Council, which now has legislative powers until parliamentary elections are held in two months, he dominates both the executive and legislative branches. Within this stable framework where there is clear definition of powers and scope of work for each branch, there cannot be any more excuses for failure.
There are no more alibis for not declaring a legislative agenda and executive plan of action that would urgently address core issues, that the president and his party presumably have a better sense of since coming to power but failed to resolve until now.
Now that the constitution has been adopted, those in power are still in the habit of making excuses for their failures, in the absence of a project. Most prominent among these pretexts is opposition powers, which they view as uncooperative and essentially wanting to overthrow them, and the media, which they view as subversive and rumor mongering.
While these accusations only focus on parts of the picture and intentionally ignore the overall scene, a hostile opposition or media cannot be used as an excuse because — despite their problems — they are key components of any plural system. More importantly, they are not in charge of the country and do not have the power to take decisions. This authority is only in the hands of those in power, in both the executive and legislative branches.
(Ibrahim El-Houdaiby is a writer and researcher focusing on Islamic movements and democratisation. He wasEgyptian political activist and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). This article was published Al-Ahram Online on Dec. 30, 2012)