This month’s issue of the Boston Review’s Forum was dedicated the question of what went wrong in the Egyptian transition. I had the honor of writing the principal piece, which elicited thoughtful responses from my colleagues, Ellis Goldberg, Andrew March, Nathan Brown, Akbar Ganji, Anne Norton and Micheline Ishay. Space restraints, of course, did not allow them a full response, nor me a response to their limited responses, but nevertheless, I thought the editors of the Boston Review did an excellent job putting this forum together. I would like to thank them for inviting me to write the piece, inviting these distinguished scholars to respond, and producing an excellent final version for the public. Finally, I’d like to thank Nader Hashimi and Danny Postel for inviting me to the University of Denver to lecture on Egypt’s transition. That lecture ultimately give birth to this forum.Read More
Those inclined to blame Morsi and the MB for all that has happened focus on his refusal to move forward with early presidential elections. I have been trying to get an answer to this question for a long time, and no one, as far as I know, has bothered to attempt an answer: by what legal authority could Morsi have set new elections? There was a law governing presidential elections (which I believe was in fact drafted by none other then the current interim president, Adli Mansur), and the constitution even set out the timing of presidential elections. Assuming that early presidential elections was constitutionally feasible, a law authorizing such elections would have had to be passed. I’m not arguing that Morsi would have done so; I think there are good reasons why the MB feared early presidential elections, at least in the absence of a parliament, but as I recall events during the #Jan25 revolution, people were very concerned that Mubarak’s resignation would cause a constitutional crisis. Persons like Hossam Bahgat even wrote a column in the Washington Post addressing the constitutional crisis that would arise if Mubarak simply left.
I have read reports that Morsi was indeed willing to resign once a parliament had been elected precisely to avoid a constitutional crisis that would allow for the return of military rule. This was not an unreasonable position, if true. Whatever one’s views of Morsi or the MB, did we Egyptians not at least owe it to ourselves to exhaust constitutional possibilities prior to empowering the police and the army, with an all too predictable result?
Perhaps the MB would not respect election results, God knows, but they would have no standing at that point. Now, they are martyrs and Egypt stands at the precipice of collapse.Read More
I contributed a post to There is Power in the Blog: Political Theology with the title “Legitimacy, Revolution and State Formation in Sunni Political Theology” that discusses the tension in Sunni political theory between the idea of the legitimate ruler and the usurper, and applies these concepts to the current crisis in Egypt.Read More