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Political Implications of President Morsi’s Demise

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Death of someone may have some social consequences after the family’s loss of their bread winner; where the wife becomes a widow and the children become orphans. Sometimes, the deceased’s family is subjected to attitudes of cupidity both from relatives and aliens, especially if the dead person was rich and used to have a prominent social standing.

However, death can also have some political repercussions, especially if the deceased is a prominent political figure, not to mention being a head of state, which raises the following question:

What does the death of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi mean to both the regime and the opposition, and what are the political implications of his departure?

As for the regime, the departure of Morsi means a lot; as with his death, the last element of the January revolution legitimacy has fallen after the 2012-constitution had been suspended, a new constitution (2014) had been written, and presidential and parliamentary elections had been held (regardless of the integrity of the electoral process). Although General Sisi replaced Morsi as president, according to these elections, the obsession with Morsi’s legitimacy has always haunted him during his foreign tours amid continued protests organized by the opposition forces in exile. In addition, Sisi has been severely criticized by international human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and others for his regime’s human rights violations. Thus, the legitimacy of Morsi used to be more like a chronic headache to Sisi; however, this legitimacy seems to have been almost removed after the death of President Morsi. Nevertheless, the mysterious circumstances that surrounded Morsi’s death has led to a new kind of headache to Sisi, especially after international demands to undertake a neutral international investigation into Morsi’s death. Thus, the circumstances that surrounded Morsi’s death are likely to remain an embarrassing issue for General Sisi during his foreign visits, amid continued protetests of the Egyptian opposition forces abroad.

The death of President Morsi has also led to highlighting the issue of political detainees in Sisi’s prisons – estimated from 60 to 100 thousand, according to international human rights organizations – and the ill-treatment they are subjected to in detention. The death of Morsi due to deliberate medical negligence according to the testimony of his family and the reports of international rights organizations, has shed more light on the difficult situation of the rest of political detainees. The questions that arise here are:

Will Egyptian political detainees be released or will the Sisi regime insist on denying presence of any political detainees in Egyptian prisons and alleging that prisoners are being treated well, including Morsi himself?

Will such allegations be accepted by the international community, especially in light of reports on deterioration of the health situation of many political detainees, most notably Muslim Brotherhood leader Dr. Mohamed Badie, and former presidential candidates: Hazem Salah Abu Ismail and Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh.

In fact, the Egyptian opposition in exile is required to do its best for defending the cause of political detainees in Sisi’s prisons in light of deterioration of the health situation of many of them due to deliberate medical negligence. Failure on the part of opposition forces to do this job will result in more casualties among political detainees, whether due to medical negligence or systematic killing that is difficult to prove.

The timing of President Morsi’s death (June 17, 2019) is extremely significant, as it came only a few days before the start of the Africa Cup of Nations (June 21, 2019), which is currently hosted by Egypt, amid so much promotion, especially with the participation of Egyptian international superstar Mohamed Salah. Taking into consideration that that football is often used as a means of distraction for achieving political ends (especially in the third world), the African championship was used distract Egyptian people and draw their attention away from that important incident of Morsi’s death. News of Egypt’s first civil elected president had occupied very little space in the major state-owned newspapers which were also keen on depriving him of his title as ‘former president’ or ‘late president’, to give an implication that he was only “a political criminal belonging to a terrorist group”, not Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

So, it is not surprising that the Egyptian media has been preoccupied since the day of Morsi’s death with covering the African championship, especially the news about the Egyptian national team. Some satellite channels maintained their normal daily transmission plans, airing TV serials and cinema movies after announcing Morsi’s death. Some pro-regime TV channels devoted their live shows for the defamation of Morsi. In his talk show known as “al-Hekaya” (The Story) on MBC satellite channel, pro-regime anchor Amr Adib, debated the legitimacy of performing funeral prayers for an “aggressor or a “traitor”, in indication to the death of Morsi in attempt to distort him even after passing away. Another satellite channel transmitted a program on the Muslim Brotherhood, describing it as a terrorist group, to send wrong a message to people that the dead person is only a “terrorist” who does not deserve any sympathy!

In fact, there had been debate among various opposition forces on the legitimacy of Morsi since the military coup that ousted him on 3 July until he died on 17 June 2019. While some believed that the legitimacy was attributed to the January revolution, others believed that Morsi, as one of the fruits of the January revolution, was representing legitimacy. Despite the fact that understandings were reached among opposition forces that the controversial issue of legitimacy had to be postponed until after the defeat of the coup, however, with the departure of Morsi, the Egyptian opposition, whether at home or abroad, should unite and achieve a real national alignment to face the Sisi regime. Failure to do this, on the part of the Egyptian opposition, would be a clear indication of absence of any political will to face Sisi’s authoritarian regime, and that the debate on Morsi’s legitimacy before his death was only a pretext used by one party or another to avoid achievement of any kind of national alignment. Of course, we are talking here about the real political opposition, that have adopted a clear position on rejection of the military coup, or those that conducted reviews and reversed their stances on participation in the June 30 events – not the decorative or functional opposition that is considered part of the regime.

As the practices of the current Egyptian regime have shown so far that it is engaging in a zero battle with its opponents and that the idea of ​​political negotiation is not on the table, the opposition forces, both at home and abroad, should only pursue achievement of its announced objective of revolting against the coup for restoration of legitimacy.

However, this revolution for restoration of legitimacy have many requirements, most prominently the presence of a political will for change, uniting around a revolutionary project that requires an intellectual and institutional structure that could lead a campaign for correcting the Egyptian people’s political awareness, which is the fuel of any revolution, and seek inclusion of more forces that operate outside this framework or prefer to remain silent for fear of the regime’s strict security grip.

The death of Morsi is a golden opportunity that may provide “elixir of life” to the Egyptian opposition forces and help them get out of the current stalemate. If they fail to do so, they have to step back and let others come to the fore for leading the scene; otherwise, they will be held responsible for this failure by both supporters and opponents.

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