Today Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi signed the country’s new constitution, recently approved easily in a national referendum. He gave a speech in which he sounded fairly confident of his own position, the BBC explains:
In his first address to the nation since he signed the new constitution into law, Mr Morsi said that this was a historic day. . . .
Egypt, he said, had a free constitution that had not been imposed by an occupier, a king or a president.
President Morsi sounded a triumphant note in his speech, like a man who had finally got what he wanted after weeks of political turmoil. He assured Egyptians, now the constitution was in place, the country would be more stable and secure.
He called it a historic day, a new “dawn” for Egypt. He placed great emphasis on the new constitution having been freely chosen by the Egyptian people, not imposed from above. It was a subtle response to the opposition who have long accused President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of unilaterally the drafting the constitution. . . .
He said in his speech he would introduce policies to boost growth. But many Egyptians say that until they feel the benefits in their daily lives, such promises are nothing but words.
Mr Morsi said the passing of the constitution meant Egypt could now move to a new stage that should bring security and stability for the people.
He said the economy was the priority – and he was planning a package of incentives for investors. “I will deploy all my efforts to boost the Egyptian economy, which faces enormous challenges but has also big opportunities for growth, and I will make all the changes necessary for this task,” he said.
As Andy McCarthy noted below, the referendum has regularly been portrayed in the Western media as a slim victory for the constitution and the Brotherhood, but the final count from Egypt’s Electoral Commission had 63.8 percent of voters approving the document. ‘Slim’ landslide, indeed.
Meanwhile, the opposition that does stand apart from Egypt’s Islamist majority has promised that the constitutional process is not yet over, and the political crisis is far from resolved, with a spokesman today saying “The fight against the constitution will continue through all the democratic mechanisms, whether through protests, sit-ins and parliamentary elections.” Their umbrella group, the National Salvation Front, also plans to present a more unified opposition to Morsi’s solidified rule.
What’s the U.S. government’s take on the constitution’s approval? The key part of the State Department’s press release:
We have consistently supported the principle that democracy requires much more than simple majority rule. It requires protecting the rights and building the institutions that make democracy meaningful and durable.The future of Egypt’s democracy depends on forging a broader consensus behind its new democratic rules and institutions.
Many Egyptians have voiced deep concerns about the substance of the constitution and the constitutional process. President Morsi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions, build trust, and broaden support for the political process. We have called for genuine consultation and compromise across Egypt’s political divides.
It would take a diplomat’s thickest monocle to notice State’s insinuation that, as has been explained here on the Corner and elsewhere, the new constitution does not, in fact, adequately “protect” Egyptians’ rights and “build the institutions” necessary for democracy. It is there, though, in the acknowledgement of the “deep concerns” of “many Egyptians”; what isn’t there is sufficient condemnation of these failings to give the Egyptian opposition any heart or hope for Western support.