A year after the death of Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president, TRT World looks at how Sisi has performed on some of the key issues Morsi was accused of failing on.
In early August 2013, eager to explain his decision to overthrow Egypt’s only democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Abdel Fattah el Sisi gave an interview to the Washington Post on why he had decided to carry out a military coup.
We now know that much of the seemingly ‘grassroots’ opposition to Morsi, which manifested on the streets in the days before his overthrow, was carefully orchestrated by the military to give the impression of popular discontent and the pretext with which to make their move.
Nonetheless, for Sisi the ostensible justification had more to do with Morsi’s purported failings.
He told the interviewer: “Unfortunately, the former president picked fights with almost all the state institutions - with the judiciary, with the al-Azhar religious institution, with the Coptic church, with the media, and with the political powers.
“Even with public opinion. When a president is having conflicts with all of these state institutions, the chance of success for such a president is very meager.”
As this was his justification, it seems fair to use them as the metric to judge his own performance.
However, first it is important to make clear what Morsi’s hopes were for his country.
Given that his rule barely lasted a year before the coup, it is difficult to determine what he could have achieved but comments by his close advisors give some hint of where Egypt could have headed under his rule.
According to Hamza Zawba, a close friend of Morsi, the major aspect of the former president’s domestic policy included checking the power of the military, as well as clearing the judicial system of political influence.
On the military front, Morsi acted swiftly to remove army chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his deputy Sami Anan from their positions.
Unfortunately for the then-president, their replacement, Abdel Fattah el Sisi, was even more determined to return to military rule.
Sisi’s track record
Seven years after the coup that removed Morsi, Sisi has presided over a dramatic deterioration in all basic rights and further entrenched the military’s role in everyday life. Managing to assert his rule through fear of his state security apparatus rather than popular consent.
With regard to the judiciary, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the entire judicial structure exists as a body to rubber stamp his policies with no hint of a commitment to the separation of powers.
Amnesty International notes that the use of military trials to prosecute political opponents has undermined the strength of the civilian judicial court system. Nevertheless, the rights group says that those same civilian courts have been used to reinforce Sisi’s policies and ensure laws targeting minorities and opposition activists.
In contrast, Morsi’s attempts to reform the judiciary and ensure their impartiality were seized upon by his critics during his year in charge as evidence of his authoritarian tendencies.
It is also important to note that while Morsi had disagreements with rival political parties and pro-military media outlets that were constantly critical of his rule, at no point did he ban them or place restrictions on them.
Morsi, for all the criticisms remained committed to political and press plurality, which has not been true for Sisi.
Under his rule, political parties have effectively become a thing of the past unless they pledge complete loyalty to him and journalists face imprisonment for any criticism of his rule.
On the public opinion front, gauging the real level of support for Sisi is impossible as elections are rigged in his favour, turnout for voting is single digit in some places, and protests are put down by the threat or actual use of violence.
These are just on the domestic front. On the international front, due to the huge sums they have poured into the country, Egypt has followed every UAE and Saudi diktat.
That includes joining the blockade of Qatar despite its reliance on remittances from Egyptian workers based there, to joining the UAE-sponsored foray in Libya where their preferred warlord, Khalifa Haftar, has suffered defeat after defeat.
It is impossible to say how Morsi would have performed if he had been allowed to complete his term but based on his first year at least, it’s certain basic rights would have been respected.
And what is more, if the electorate were not satisfied, they would have had the opportunity to vote him out. With Sisi no such possibility exists.