Elastic legitimacy: how legitimate was Mursi’s leadership?

Military helicopters fly above Tahrir Square. Egypt's revolution

Sherif Rizq

One can’t define a political term the same way any time any where. Time and place may add a bit of a different context. Contextualization is a key word to understand what’s happening anywhere anytime in the world. So, this is the case in Egypt as well. The way the Muslim Brotherhood defines legitimacy, for example, depends completely on whether the definition would serve them best or not. When Mubarak, the former president, was ousted in Feb 11 -2011, he was a legitimate president. He was elected in 2005, so it was quite unconstitutional to force him to resign, but the Muslim Brotherhood insisted on the legitimacy of the revolution. Now when millions headed everywhere in Egypt, they definitely outnumbered the people who demonstrated in 2011, they had the same claim of legitimacy of the revolution, yet the Muslim Brotherhood insisted on the legitimacy of the ballots.

So, the question is: did Mursi abide the law and was he legitimate? To answer this question we have to examine some facts. Mursi vowed to respect the law and the constitution. Yet, he cancelled the second constitutional declaration that he vowed to respect and abide and made a new declaration that would allow him to issue any laws and it gave him the right not to be reviewed by any authority, even the judicial one. Now, that’s quite overbearing, was this legitimate?

Who could have ousted him? People got angry and demonstrated for days before the presidential palace, and then they were attacked by the Muslim Brotherhood militants groups. Can a president have militant groups!? Was he still legitimate?

And then he replaced the public attorney according to the new unconstitutional constitutional declaration, however the law in Egypt doesn’t give the president the right to dismiss the public attorney. The public attorney may resign, but can’t be dismissed by the president. Is this legitimate? What he did further was not legitimate either, simply because the judicial system only allows the supreme council of judges to do so. They choose three judges and then the president has the right to choose one from them, still he didn’t follow these procedures. Yet he defiantly appointed Talaat Abdallah, a judge that he chose to hold the post. Was he legitimate at this time!?

Many Egyptians felt desperate, they needed to do something and headed for all the squares. There were millions, but the president, it seemed he was in a coma, said there were only 130,000. That was really provocative to so many people, he was in denial. He didn’t come up with any solutions, he didn’t communicate, he didn’t compromise. The only possible solution for the army was to align with the will of so many people.

Legitimacy is not a word we use only in elections, we use it all the way through, so if Mr Mursi had followed the constitution all the way through, he would have the right to his claim, yet he never did so.

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