With the death of Egypt’s first - and only - democratically elected president, the country’s political situation remains in dire straits.
Rabat – As hundreds of bodies still waited to be buried beneath the ground following the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, a glimmer of hope shone across the country with the election of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader.
Vowing to bring the country together after its bloody revolution, Morsi promised inclusiveness and cooperation between Egyptians of all political affiliations, and sought to oust the lingering oligarchic structures of his predecessor’s regime.
However, Morsi’s appeals to liberal and progressive Egyptians quickly fell into conflict with his conservative ideologies and alignment with the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed Islamist group which has been designated as a terrorist organization in Egypt.
This conflict broke out into violence within the year, as an attempt at expanding presidential power led to deadly street fighting between leftist Egyptians and Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Soon after taking office, Morsi moved to consolidate his hold on the country and prevent Mubarak-era judges from intervening in the new regime by issuing a constitutional declaration to essentially exclude the Egyptian Judiciary from practicing any form of oversight.
After barely a year in office, Morsi was overthrown and imprisoned by the Egyptian military, which began to implement its own vision for the restoration of the country’s government.
On June 17, 2019, after several years of being locked away in prison, Morsi passed away at the age of 67 following a court appearance in Cairo.
Democracy and Morsi’s rise power
In 2011, hundreds of Egyptians were killed in the violent struggle to oust Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for three decades.
With the removal of Mubarak from power, Egypt was free to hold its first truly democratic elections, which were won by Mohamed Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, with 51.7 percent of the vote.
Promising inclusivity and cooperation across Egypt, Morsi won the initial support of both his ardent supporters and suspicious critics, with his popularity never dropping below 55 to 60 percent.
“The counternarrative that Morsi wasn’t a popular person, that Egypt needed a more charismatic figure, was not true … For the first four months, Morsi’s popularity [ranking] was in the stratosphere,” said Wael Haddara, one of Morsi’s campaign advisers.
“He presented to people an accessible figure. A vast majority of Egyptians eking out a living, struggling to make ends meet, looked at Morsi as one of their own,” he added.
Taking his oath at Tahrir Square, the site of mass protests during the 2011 Revolution, Morsi attempted to connect with his people by opening his jacket to show that he wasn’t wearing a bulletproof vest.
Morsi, who had himself been imprisoned during the 2011 protests before escaping in a mass prison break, also released 572 political prisoners detained during the revolution to further show his dedication towards the revolution and his acknowledgement of the hundreds who were killed to earn his position as a democratically elected leader.
In the eyes of his people, Morsi was a welcome change from the elitist regime of Mubarak, and represented hope for a secure and democratic future for the state of Egypt.
Meanwhile, in reality, Morsi’s grip on his country was challenged in every arena, with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces giving itself legislative power and the Mubarak-era judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving the Brotherhood-majority lower house of Parliament.
When the time came to draft a new constitution, Morsi stripped the military of its ability to participate in creating the constitution and issued a declaration to place himself beyond judicial review.
The drafted constitution which promoted Islam and threatened practices such as free speech and womens’ rights was hastily written and approved by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
To further consolidate his own power, Morsi moved to further entrench the Muslim Brotherhood within the government by appointing seven of the group’s members to regional governor positions.
Among these appointments was the placement of a member of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya, an extremist organization responsible for killing 62 tourists in Luxor in 1997, to the position of governor of Luxor.
With Morsi’s power growing dangerously similar to the previous Mubarak regime, the military decided to intervene and issued the president an ultimatum to either fix the increasingly severe political crisis or step down from power.
Coup and the fall of Egyptian democracy
Two days after issuing the ultimatum, the forces from the Egyptian military marched into Morsi’s office to inform him that he was no longer the legitimate president of Egypt.
Morsi was dragged out and brought to the headquarters of the Republican Guard to be imprisoned, where subsequent clashes between pro- and anti-Muslim Brotherhood forces would lead to the military gunning down 51 demonstrators.
With democracy suspended and Morsi imprisoned, the military moved to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, butchering at least 800 pro-Morsi protestors in the Rabaa Massacre one month after Morsi’s removal.
Morsi had been charged with a myriad of crimes, ranging from espionage to murder for his role in the deaths of protestors in 2012.
At the time of Morsi’s death, Egypt had not yet resolved the ongoing crisis and the military remains in power, leaving the country without any hope for democratic leadership in the near future.
Thus, with the death of Egypt’s first elected official, the hope for future elections deteriorates and the prospects for a free Egypt remain grim.