Noah Feldman on Mursi as a Committed Democrat

by Reihan Salam

Noah Feldman argues that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is a committed democrat who has seized extraordinary powers to prevent Egypt’s constitutional court from legitimating military rule:

Since Mubarak fell and the Islamists were elected, the court has actively tried to constrain the government. The impulse may have been public-spirited at first, but it quickly descended into anti-democratic partisanship on the side of the army. The culmination of the court’s efforts came when it dissolved the elected legislature in June. In a subsequent interview, one of the court’s justices admitted that the court was on the side of the military regime all along and prepared its rulings against the legislature from the moment the elections took place.

There is good reason to think that the court was poised to dissolve the elected constituent assembly, just as it dissolved the parliament — one more step toward declaring the presidential election invalid and creating a constitutional coup d’etat against Mursi.

Make no mistake: The result of any such action by the courts would be to assure the continued power of the military leaders, who have not accepted the results of the elections. The struggle between the elected Islamists and the army is not over. Properly speaking, Mursi’s decree is part of that struggle. Perceiving the court as a tool of the military, he was trying to take it out of the game pre-emptively.

Yet the means Mursi adopted were naive — and they backfired badly.

This is an optimistic interpretation, and I am eager to hear others. Sultan al Qassemi takes a much less sanguine view:

Over the past 24 hours Western channels have been repeatedly saying that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsy has “agreed to limit|” his news powers. This is simply untrue. Not even by a long shot. Morsy gave himselfunprecedented powers over the past few days resulting in demonstrations and clashes that killed two young Egyptians. Morsy is now the absolute ruler of Egypt supported, once again, by the US government and media channels. Previously Morsy’s blind support came from Al Jazeera Arabic but we are now seeing Western media being complicit in the same folly. 

In a perfect world, I’d love to hear a dialogue between Noah Feldman and Sultan al Qassemi. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.