Skip to main content

Give Morsy a chance to fix this

By Ed Husain, Special to CNN
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/04/middleeast/gallery/egypt-after-coup/index.html'>View photos of Egypt after the coup.</a> Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy clash with riot police during the swearing in ceremony of Adly Mansour as interim president in Cairo on Thursday, July 4. Egypt's military deposed Morsy, the country's first democratically elected president, the country's top general announced Wednesday. View photos of Egypt after the coup.
HIDE CAPTION
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Photos: Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
Protests in Egypt
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ed Husain: Hopes were high when Egyptians ousted Mubarak. Is the dream over?
  • Husain: Morsy broke the faith, but he deserves more time if he corrects mistakes
  • He says Morsy must be humble and the military must respect civilian leadership
  • Husain: Egypt's mess is of its own making; the solutions must be, too

Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of "The Islamist" can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain.

(CNN) -- Egyptians were the pride of the modern world when they overthrew their dictator in January, 2011. They proved to us that the cry for freedom and liberty was universal. That Arabs and Muslims were no different from others. Hopes were raised, but now the democratic dream is coming apart before our eyes as millions demonstrate against the Morsy government in Egypt. Is it too late to save Egypt's democracy?

Popular protests are the sign of a robust democracy. But the change in an elected government should be at the ballot box, not through mob violence.

Torching Muslim Brotherhood offices, attacking their leaders' homes and killing their activists is no way to oppose an elected president. Granted, the secular opposition forces in Egypt have genuine grievances. Morsy started his reign a year ago promising to appoint a female vice president and a Coptic Christian deputy. He failed to deliver on both counts, sending negative signals to Egypt's Christian communities and neglecting gender parity.

Ed Husain
Ed Husain

Morsy's team has been keen to show photos of him leading prayers at the palace more often than signing new trade and investment agreements. It is this failure to improve the lives of ordinary people -- in fact, making their lives worse since the revolution -- that has allowed the opposition to mobilize millions on the streets.

I have visited Egypt regularly since the revolution, and heard from people from across society about why they were still willing to give Morsy a chance. They said they understood it took time to reverse the decay of Mubarak's four decades. But they were not prepared for long queues outside gas stations, frequent electricity cuts, deaths in train accidents, and the steep decline in tourism, Egypt's economic lifeline.

Incompetence at the top was proven when the government declared a tax increase to match IMF requirements and then reversed the decision on Facebook in the wee hours of the night.

Egyptians are a proud people -- they may protest through Facebook, but do not expect to be governed by declarations on it. They are accustomed to being governed by well-spoken, strong presidential figures in Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Morsy has not been in command of his script when speaking in public, nor in control of his government's agenda, assuming he has one.

Morsy's many mistakes outdo his limited achievements. Yes, he instituted the country's new constitution, but it was done through an executive power grab with no judicial or parliamentary oversight. With the secular and liberal opposition forces isolated, Morsy and his broadly Islamist and Salafist supporters rammed through a hodgepodge constitution.

The claims and counter-claims in Egyptian politics, the blame and counter-blame, are incessant. But what's next? Bringing millions into the streets is impressive, but it is not a strategy for improving lives, or for creating the political stability that is required for economic prosperity. The tourists will not return, nor will international investment, so long as Egypt is drawing negative global headlines.

Is Morsy on the brink?
What comes next for Egypt's economy?
Egypt's military gives Morsy ultimatum

Morsy came to power through the ballot box, and should only be removed by it -- not through popular protests or a military coup. If Morsy were to resign, it is not clear who would succeed him. And in a year's time, with protesters' appetites whetted for new political heads to roll, we will be back in the same position of demands for new rulers.

With all his faults, and despite government resignations all around him, Morsy deserves more time in office. U.S. President Barack Obama was right not to call for his resignation. But more time in office cannot be full of mistakes like those of the last year.

First, Morsy's team needs to stop treating the opposition with arrogance and contempt. In an ideal world, the secular opposition leaders would be more constructive and accommodating. But you have to fight a battle with the soldiers you have, not the ones you want. Morsy needs to have the likes of opposition figures such as Mohamed ElBaradei, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fatouh, Hamdeen Sabbahi, and others around a table in a nationally televised dialogue.

The opposition needs to stand away from brinkmanship. The zero-sum game must end. It harms Egypt, and ordinary Egyptians.

Second, Morsi needs to speak out in public, and stick to his script in humility (no off-the-cuff remarks in colloquial Arabic), asking the Egyptian protesters for more time in government. Contrition from the president and a clearer vision can help sooth ordinary protesters. It needs to be a straightforward message that accepts past mistakes and lays out realistic promises to solve fuel shortages, power cuts, delays in instituting a parliament, and conflict with Egypt's judiciary, however difficult.

Third, Egypt's armed forces must stop flirting with protesters. In a democracy, the military answers to an elected civilian leadership. That culture is not yet instituted among the Egyptian generals. At the same time that Morsy is making concessions and promising deliverables on television, the generals should be stopping their ultimatums to their president.

Fourth, failing all of the above, Morsy needs to call early presidential elections and renew his legitimacy at a referendum. If the secular opposition wants a new president, let's see who they can offer to the Egyptian people. The Muslim Brotherhood may not support Morsy as their candidate, again. It remains to be seen.

Amid the instability in Egypt, blaming the United States has been easy but ultimately meaningless. Conspiracy theories of U.S. control may be cathartic to some, but they produce little to improve the country. Egypt's military, judiciary, media, and secular opposition leaders have blocked Morsy repeatedly. These were not U.S. actions. The mess in Egypt is of Egyptian making, but the solutions also lie within Egypt. Will Morsy rise to the challenge and unite a divided nation?

Follow CNN Opinion on Twitter.

Join the conversation on Facebook.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Husain.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1349 GMT (2149 HKT)
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1637 GMT (0037 HKT)
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT