Will Egypt regain its position in tourism

Arabic spring

Peter Philipp

To person

Born in 1944 in Wiesbaden, was a Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem between 1968 and 1991, including for Süddeutsche Zeitung and Deutschlandfunk. Since 1991 editor at Deutschlandfunk in Cologne, later head of the Middle East department, then the Africa / Middle East department of Deutsche Welle Radio. From 1998 until his retirement in 2009, chief correspondent and Middle East expert at Deutsche Welle Radio.

Egypt voted. The new president is called Mohamed Morsi, is a Muslim Brother and only recently dreamed of the "United Arab States" - with Jerusalem as its capital. What can we expect from Morsi? Peter Philipp with an assessment.

The new Egyptian President. Caricature by Patrick Chappatte (& copy Chappatte in "International Herald Tribune" www.globecartoon.com)

The new Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in a submissive manner and the Field Marshal, who assigns him a side seat at his desk. Such a caricature by Patrick Chappatte after the first election of a Muslim Brother as head of state in Egypt. The mood, suspicion and mistrust of even the narrow majority of 51.7% of voters who voted for Morsi could hardly be described more accurately. Especially among the voters who suspect the rule of an Islamist and who therefore voted for the last head of government of the ousted President Husni Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq.

The 60-year-old election winner, with a doctorate in engineering in the USA and later professor at the University of Zagazig, should be aware of this. That is why he has been trying to reduce distrust at home and abroad since his election victory was announced. In terms of domestic as well as foreign policy, however, he continually encounters new problems and this reinforces the suspicion among many - especially in Egypt - that Morsi is too inexperienced to turn this presidency into a success story.

He is certainly not lacking in goodwill: He has terminated his membership in the "Party for Freedom and Justice" (FJP), although he had previously led this party, which was only founded at the end of April 2011 and which is at least close to the Muslim Brotherhood. He also assures that he wants to be "President of all Egyptians" and that women and Christian Copts participate in power as well as representatives of non-religious parties.

Presidential power and military council

Before the election results were announced, however, the presidential power was limited by the "Supreme Military Council" (SCAF), who was in charge after the fall of Mubarak under the leadership of Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. The rise in power of the Islamists is a nightmare for the members of this council: the military (almost all of them trained in the USA and dependent on US $ 1.3 billion in military aid) feel they are the guardians of the 1952 revolution, the armed forces have long since become a kind of state become in the state, which among other things - up to Mubarak - provided every state president and enjoys great privileges. And since the years of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Muslim Brotherhood has been regarded - in degrees - as enemies of the state by the military.

Historic handshake? Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi on July 1, 2012 in Cairo. (& copy AP)
Nevertheless, Mursi sought dialogue with the military council at an early stage. Probably also because it was clear to him that the Muslim Brotherhood would not be able to violently oppose the Scaf. The council initially tried to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from gaining strength. After they had won around 40% (and together with the more radical Salafists around 70%) of the vote in the parliamentary elections, the military, with the help of the Constitutional Court, canceled the election and closed the parliament. Preventing the presidential election was probably too "hot iron" for them, but at least they decreed a drastic curtailment of the president's rights.

To call this the military's "coup" is likely to ignore the issue. One of the many accusations that had been made against the previous President Mubarak was that, through various constitutional amendments, he had expanded his power to such an extent that it was practically unlimited and uncontrolled. Only a new constitution could have reversed this, but such a constitution has not yet been drafted or passed. The new president to be elected would basically have received Mubarak's extensive power that has been criticized up to now. Aside from seeking to maintain its own power and influence, this was reason enough for the Scaf to curtail the president's powers.

Gradually, the SCAF will surely have to transfer tasks and powers to the President. But he will certainly want to keep control in the background, out of an effort to retain power and out of deep distrust of the Islamists. Even if these are far more moderate and conciliatory among the Muslim Brotherhood and the FJP than in the past. Politically, despite all regional differences, they can be assigned to the group of parties and movements for "justice and development" that have formed from Morocco to Pakistan and are roughly based on the Turkish model.

In order to achieve this example, a lot would have to happen in Egypt and a lot can go wrong: The country suffers from massive corruption, the economy will take a long time to recover from the upheaval in 2011 and socially, depending on economic and foreign policy developments, one could also set in decline. It takes more than good intentions to get the economy moving. Tourism is one of the biggest sources of foreign exchange. A restless Egypt, even more an emphatically Islamist country, will - as it did years ago during the terrorist attacks in Egypt - deter tourists and a recovery in this industry will depend very much on at least a superficial "normalization".

Reorganization of foreign policy

But this also includes the order (or reorganization) of the country's foreign policy relations: vis-à-vis the USA and Europe, vis-à-vis Israel and Iran. All three areas are more than sensitive and could put the new president in distress: The dependency on the USA and even on some European states is rejected by many Egyptians as a negative aspect of the policy of the Mubarak government. Likewise, the peace treaty with Israel, which was concluded in 1979 after the Camp David Agreement, is criticized, questioned or even called for its termination by broad circles of the Egyptian public. And because Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is so unwaveringly against the USA and Israel, he has gained an astonishing reputation among the Egyptians in recent years, even though Sunni Islamists don't really care for the Shiites.

Mohamed Mursi almost got caught in this foreign policy minefield right from the start and - for the time being - he was barely able to save himself. The Iranian news agency "Fars" reported that Morsi wanted to resume relations with Tehran (which had broken off in 1979). He immediately denied having ever given such an interview. It was certainly clear to him that with such a step he would receive massive criticism from the Americans and Europeans. As for Israel, he had given assurances immediately after the election that he would of course stand by international agreements. Without saying it in concrete terms: So also to peace with Israel.

People in Jerusalem are by no means impressed by the developments in Egypt. They are cited as evidence of increasing radicalization, also due to the upheavals of the "Arab Spring". And they serve the conservative-nationalist Netanyahu government as a pretext for the continuation and tightening of the relentless pace towards the Palestinians and Iran: The Islamist "Hamas" is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and can certainly count on more support from Cairo once they have grown in power. Iran on the other hand, which supports "Hamas" (like the other two enemies of Israel "Hezbollah" and Syria) not only with words, is now even more portrayed as a regional troublemaker and troublemaker.

But also in traditional friend countries - especially on the Arabian Peninsula - the election of a Muslim Brother in Cairo aroused some suspicion after the Muslim Brotherhood began to criticize the suppression of human rights protests in the Gulf states and the alleged lack of support for supporters of the Syrian opponents of Assad .

Congratulations on the election from Washington and European capitals can hardly outweigh such problems. Especially since they arise more from diplomatic practice than from real joy about the developments on the Nile. In Washington and Brussels, people are rather suspicious of waiting: the Muslim Brotherhood there, despite their marked moderation, is still under suspicion of not being a suitable partner for Western democracies.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood celebrate the election of Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo. (& copy picture-alliance, landov)
A bumpy start for Mohamed Mursi. To which he himself had contributed in the past. For example when the staunch Muslim Brother spoke of targeting the "United Arab States" with Jerusalem as its capital. Today he seems to be far removed from this. But that could turn him into a traitor in the eyes of some of his previous followers and the Salafists will claim that of him anyway. He will lose the real hardliners among the Islamists, but may not be able to win the moderate non-religious either. After all, people around him know that just a quarter of those eligible to vote had voted for him - and almost as many for the defeated Shafiq.

No president of the Arab Spring

Among those who voted neither for him nor for Shafiq are the young, western-minded, modern Egyptians. Many of them had taken part in and led the demonstrations against Mubarak in Tahrir Square when the Muslim Brotherhood held back in disbelief. For them, the presidential election was just the culmination of disappointment so far: a Mubarak man ran against an Islamist. You didn't take to the streets for that.

For some, Mursi was the "lesser evil". But also not the realization of the dream of 2011. How little the modern Egyptians can identify with this man is ironically attached to Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, the 50-year-old wife of the new president: The devout Muslim wears a headscarf and long coat and remains religiously modest discreetly in the background, which makes her quite sympathetic to some Egyptians: She has not adopted her husband's name - that is a western bad habit, she does not want to be "First Lady", but "Umm Ahmed" ("The mother." from Ahmed "- the eldest of her sons). A woman from the people. But that is exactly what bothers others in the country on the Nile. After the elegant and educated women of Sadat and Mubarak, now "Umm Ahmed"? Although the streets are dominated by such "Umm Ahmeds", the critics are outraged: She is not representative of "the Egyptian woman" and yet more a sign that Morsi's assurances about equality between women are not very far off.