- OpEd -
The June 24 election of Mohamed Morsi as the head of the Egyptian State raised more questions than it answered. For the first time in over half a century, a civilian was taking the reins of the country, promising a fresh start for the people.
However in Cairo and other capital cities around the world, people began to question the capacity of this somewhat dull politician - a perfect apparatchik of the Muslim Brotherhood - to bring about change.
The new president's powers remained unclear – for instance, how would he govern with the powerful institution that is the military? After a long year of political uncertainty and of economic collapse, the election did nothing to alleviate the Egyptian people’s fears.
Two months later, however, Morsi has emerged as a leader, with a new sense of determination and authority that Egyptians are truly grateful for. By sacking General Tantawi on June 12 - the powerful Defense Minister who had led the country since Hosni Mubarak fell from power - and by stripping the military of the legislative powers that they had attributed to themselves in June, Morsi has really taken control.
President Morsi has also multiplied his diplomatic initiatives. He has quickly demonstrated a clear willingness to restore a strong regional leadership, which had been lackluster for a long time, and to distance himself from a tight-knit group of allies, including the United States, an alliance that was notably strong under the Mubarak era. His first diplomatic visit was, predictably, Saudi Arabia, whose petrodollars are vital for Cairo.
However, like his contacts with Chinese officials, his participation in the Non-Aligned Movement summit, on August 30 in Tehran, confirmed that he is not ruling out any alliance, in order to place himself in a powerful position as regional arbitrator. (His strong words there against the Syrian regime, which he called "oppressive," was another sign of Morsi's decisiveness in his new role.)
A visit to Washington this month, should establish Egypt's grand return to diplomacy. His recent telephone conversation with French President François Hollande, shows that Paris is also closely following the changes in Cairo. But even with all his diplomatic and political efforts, Mohamed Morsi has a long way to go before all worries and concerns can be dispelled.
On the home front, the concentration of every lever of command - executive, legislative, even constituent - in the hands of the President could soon bring back an authoritarian regime, such as the one imposed in the past by the military. The Muslim Brotherhood’s new regime would probably not give the Egyptian people the democratic freedom that were dreaming of on Tahrir Square during January and February 2012.
On the international scene, the most pressing points will be played out with neighboring Israel: Morsi has guaranteed to uphold Camp David peace accords but he needs to do good on his promise. Egypt's "renaissance" is a good thing, as long as it is both pragmatic and transparent.