Just a few days shy of the one-year mark of his ascendancy to office, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi gave a speech on the evening of Wednesday, June 26, providing a self-assessment of his performance as the head of government.
Following announcement that an address would take place, some speculated about the possibility Morsi would call for yet another cabinet reshuffle, or even for early elections.
Instead, Morsi’s two-hour discourse focused on summarizing his achievements thus far, although he also admitted to the fact that he had made some “mistakes.” Morsi also made overtures to the opposition, calling for “national reconciliation.”
It many seem commendable that Morsi admitted to his errors and invited his political opponents to take part in an all-inclusive effort to amend the new Egyptian constitution. Yet, at the same time, his speech included a number of shortsighted comments, including accusations of conspiracy, condemnation of the ongoing protests, and warnings against the potential consequences that further unrest would reap.
Morsi’s comments are especially significant in light of the looming anti-government protests organized by the Tamarod (“Rebellion”) campaign set to take place on the anniversary of his inauguration this Sunday, June 30. Tamarod is demanding Morsi’s resignation from office, and has reportedly gathered 15 million signatures from around Egypt to support this call.
While Morsi claims his continuation in office is necessary for the fulfillment of the revolution’s goals, his mistakes are similar to those made by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in dealing with public protests. Morsi seems to believe democracy is limited to the ballot box, and that the only way dissenting voices can express their dissatisfaction is by voting in another party.
Primarily, Morsi’s speech served to underscore his belief that political leaders are only obligated to be responsive to election results. For Egyptians seeking to escape the tight bonds of authoritarianism, that is simply not enough.