While the world sees Muhammed Morsi as the first president to be installed in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Brotherhood’s own perception is quite different: That movement regards him as its obedient servant and subject to its superior authority.
Monday, June 25, the day after his election victory was announced, the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, the Murshid, Mohammed Badie, administered the “loyalty oath” – which made it clear to the new president that his first allegiance was not to the Republic of Egypt and its constitution but to the commands of the movement’s Supreme Guidance Committee, the Maktab al-Irshad.
This committee consists of 15 or so Brotherhood elders headed by the Murshid.
Each member holds a portfolio, in the manner of a state government, for such departments as recruitment at universities, education, politics, etc. They execute the decisions of the legislative Majlis al-Shura which are passed down a chain of command for implementation.
In this alternative government set-up, Morsi is a virtual nobody. He has no national legislative authority, his future government’s decisions are not binding on the Brotherhood while, in contrast, the Brotherhood’s dictates are binding on him.
The Brotherhood dictates government appointments
The Supreme Guide made another important distinction.
He declared that the presidential election was won not by the Justice and Development Party, the Brotherhood front led by Morsi as its General Secretary, but by the Brotherhood itself, whose rightful candidate was Khairat Al Shater, the movement’s strongman.
The Supreme Guide pointed out that Shater was disqualified only because of a disagreement between the Brotherhood and the Supreme Military Council (SCAF). So Morsi must always bear in mind that if he fails to jump fast enough to Brotherhood edicts – and puts the good of the nation ahead of the movement – he can be plucked out of the presidential palace faster than he was installed.
Less than a week after he was declared president, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Cairo see gaps forming between Morsi and the Islamist movement – starting with government appointments:
1. The vice presidency: The president-elect wants a bevy of vice presidents, including a pious Muslim woman, a familiar public figure and a member of the Coptic Christian community, as well as a secular figure and an economics and technology expert.
Like Hosni Mubarak before him, he believes a single vice president would be constantly jockeying for the top spot and trying to outshine the president in popularity and influence. But the Muslim Brotherhood is ordering him to accept a single number two and moreover choose him from among its ranks.
Morsi digs in his heels on a prime minister
2. The prime minister. The Brotherhood has forbidden him to choose his own prime minister; he must deposit the post in the hands of the radical Salafi movement. This doesn’t necessarily mean Egypt would have a Salafi prime minister, but he would have to be a figure acceptable to the Islamist extremists.
In this demand, the Brotherhood is motivated by unwillingness to break up the powerful united Islamist camp ahead of the hard times awaiting the Egyptian economy.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Cairo sources, Morsi is digging in his heels on the choice of prime minister and refusing to grant the Salafis this privilege.
3. The defense minister. The erstwhile foes of the SCAF and Brotherhood have discovered a common interest in clipping the president-elect’s wings. Mohammed Badie and Khairat Al Shater are putting their heads together with SCAF leaders behind Morsi’s back. They are busy chopping up the still unformed cabinet and dividing the key jobs up between them.
Whether the new president likes it or not, it was initially agreed that Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Anan will move over and take the defense ministry. The current defense minister, SCAF head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is pushing 80 and not well, is expected to retire in days or weeks at most – although he has been known in the past to forget such promises.
4. The Minister of Interior: Until Wednesday, June 27, the SCAF expected to retain the interior ministry.
This minister wields more power in the land than almost another other cabinet member, because he holds the reins of all Egypt’s security forces and intelligence organizations, whose personnel number three times as many as the Egyptian military.
Tuesday, June 26, President Morsi paid a surprise visit to the Interior Ministry in Cairo, to demonstrate that the nerve center of Hosni Mubarak’s battle against the Muslim Brotherhood would henceforth function at his behest.
Our sources in Cairo report no SCAF or Muslim Brotherhood officer accompanied him – so making the point that they don’t propose to let him choose the next interior minister.
The Intelligence czardom is still up in the air
The Muslim Brotherhood and the SCAF have tentatively agreed to retain Gen. Murad Muwafi in his present capacity as minister of intelligence, although there is still some disputation over which authority the powerful intelligence organization must answer to – the military or the Brotherhood.
The MB is anxious to control this organ of state to bolster its grip on power. But whatever the outcome of this tussle, one thing is clear: Both will try and cut Morsi out of any decisions.
To overcome his first formal obstacle, Mohammed Morsi declares he will take the oath of office before the parliament on June 30 regardless of any constitutional impediment. Parliament was dissolved by order of the Supreme Constitutional Court before it had time to set up an assembly for writing a new constitution. Morsi, hemmed in by pressures on every side, promises to overcome this obstacle by convening parliament for a special session for the single purpose of his swearing-in.
The Muslim Brotherhood, fearing that step would precipitate a new general election which might reduce their majority, are ready to stall him. Morsi still has a long, winding obstacle course to run before he can establish himself as president.