Egyptians Debate Accountability for Elected Presidents

Uploaded by PBSNewsHour on 26.11.2012

bjbjVwVw RAY SUAREZ: A short while ago, I spoke with Nancy Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers'
Egypt correspondent. Nancy Youssef, let's begin with the latest statements from President
Morsi's spokesman. It's hard to know whether the president is backing off or simply clarifying
the pronouncements he made late last week. How is it being read in Cairo? NANCY YOUSSEF,
McClatchy Newspapers: That's exactly how it feels here. After several days of protests,
and tents being set up in Tahrir Square, the scene of the 18 days that led to the overthrow
of Hosni Mubarak's regime, Morsi met with judicial members today. And his spokesman
came out and said that he would have the final say over all sovereign matters. But what constitutes
a sovereign matter remains unclear. It seems that it could be as broad or as specific as
Morsi wants. And under that agreement, he has ultimate say over those matters, and there's
nobody who can overrule his decisions. And that could apply to things like the committee
will draft the permanent constitution, among other legal battles that are coming up within
the next days and weeks here in Egypt. RAY SUAREZ: Through a couple of statements, it
seems like the president is trying to protect one power more than all others. And that is
to shield the constitutional court from judicial interference while it's doing its work. Why
is that so important, to keep that constitutional council from being meddled with during this
period? NANCY YOUSSEF: Well, right now, the constitution is made up largely of members
of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was his former party until he became president in June. Secular
members, Christian members, liberal members have all resigned from the committee, and
the courts were expected to rule on the legality of the constitutional committee next month
, because a lot of the members are made up the parliamentarians who were elected in a
legislative body that has since been dissolved. And the constitution appears to be a document
that will be largely influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. And so that has become a key
provision for everybody involved. So, that appears to be his chief reason for trying
to protect that body. What's interesting is because he's also in charge of the legislative,
if that constitutional assembly is dissolved, it appears that he has the say over who would
be on it. I think what he's trying to avoid is being seen as being too overt in the assembly
of the constitutional assembly, so this way he has a more distant approach to it, if you
will. RAY SUAREZ: Was the president under increasing pressure over the weekend to rescind
his earlier seizing of more powers as president? NANCY YOUSSEF: Yes and no. There were more
protests, but the opposition that's out in Tahrir Square is quite divided about what
they want. Some called for him to rescind all seven point of that declaration. Some
called for tweaks. Some are out there calling for something different entirely, which is
police reforms. What I think is really happening in Egypt is a debate about accountability
and how much a democratically elected president should be accountable. Morsi enjoys the support
of a huge segment of this population that believes there is only one moment of accountability,
on Election Day, and what Morsi does in those four years is up to Morsi. The opponents are
saying, no, he has to be accountable to the public as he's making these major decisions.
And that's the split. The announcement today suggests that he is very confident in that
former segment, the ones that think that he doesn't have to be accountable for every decision.
There are a lot of people here who are frustrated by these protests. They see them as hindering
his ability to do his job. And that's the central debate. And because of that, there's
an expectation here that even though this issue has been resolved, until there is a
permanent constitution, there will be eruptions like this and disagreements over key decisions.
RAY SUAREZ: You mentioned that the protesters are split, and, of course, they include members
of the opposition parties. But are there also Islamists, people who would be sympathetic
to the Morsi view of Egypt today that feel like this sounds too much like the man they
went into the streets to oppose in the first place, Hosni Mubarak? NANCY YOUSSEF: Absolutely.
It's interesting when you go out to Tahrir Square the diversity of the protesters in
a way we haven't seen since February 2011, when Mubarak was toppled. There are people
who are worried because not all Islamists agree. The Salafists, for example, are quite
concerned about a constitution written exclusively or largely by the Muslim Brotherhood, and
some of them are part of this opposition as well. And so there's a whole mosaic of people
out there in opposition. But that's also complicated things because they can't reach a consensus
about what would be an acceptable outcome. There are huge protests scheduled tomorrow
throughout this country. It's unclear whether people will come out in the kinds of numbers
that we had anticipated just a few hours ago in light of this decision. And I think that
really reflects the division amongst Islamists, secularists, liberals, and Christians over
what the expectations of Morsi should be and what should be an acceptable outcome in this
issue. RAY SUAREZ: Has this crisis overshadowed what might have been President Morsi's victory
lap over brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel just a few days before? NANCY YOUSSEF:
Well, interestingly, people here believe that one of the reasons he made this announcement
here is he felt a newfound confidence and power from that announcement, and that that
was the timing. Remember, Hillary Clinton made the announcement with his foreign minister
on Wednesday night. And Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, he made this announcement. It seems that
it's hurt his standing in the international community. We heard from the State Department
today that that what was happening here was -- they described it as murky, for example.
But, domestically, there wasn't as much embrace of Morsi's role in Gaza as I think there was
in the international community. People were happy that Morsi sort of reestablished Egypt's
place as an international player. But there are so many pressing domestic issues that
they in a way overshadowed Gaza and his role in the negotiations. And so, in a strange
way, the feeling here is that had that not happened, perhaps he wouldn't have made this
announcement now. RAY SUAREZ: Nancy Youssef from McClatchy Newspapers joining us from
Cairo, thanks for joining us. NANCY YOUSSEF: Thanks. urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
country-region urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags City urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
Street urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags address urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags
place RAY SUAREZ: The domestic unrest has overshadowed Morsi's role in mediating a cease-fire
between Israel and Hamas and Egypt's role as a mediator in indirect talks between the
two adversaries Normal Microsoft Office Word RAY SUAREZ: The domestic unrest has overshadowed
Morsi's role in mediating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and Egypt's role as a mediator
in indirect talks between the two adversaries Title Microsoft Office Word Document MSWordDoc