Morsi’s Pre-Tamarod Speech: Threats, Lies, and Manipulation

Morsi Speech.jpg

In a two hour and forty minute speech of about 3,000 words, rather than focus on initiatives desperately needed in order to repair a divided country, President Mohamed Morsi instead delivered a set of pointed threats and blatant lies that come just days before a protest reflect the rejection of his presidency by over 15 million Egyptian citizens. While the expert Morsi speech observer was unlikely to be phased at Wednesday’s unfortunate jamboree of name-calling, shaming, and manipulation, there are a number of takeaways reflecting the larger context at hand.

One of the broadest themes throughout the speech was a clear refusal on Morsi’s part to back down from what has quickly turned into a ‘throne.’ He childishly listed the names of prominent liberals (among them two Christians) who refused to partake in his cabinets, implicitly placing blame for a lack of national reconciliation on the opposition and minorities. He then praised the judiciary, describing them as the “crown” of Egypt’s institutions, only to accuse Judge Ahmed Nemr of electoral fraud and call for the need to refer twenty-two judges to investigation. He detracted from the strength of the opposition and instead compared them to thugs who seek to destroy Egypt. Emphasizing the ballot box as the only legitimate means by which to change a government, Morsi’s speech, one that was directed at his followers rather than the entire nation, reflects his own attachment to the office of the Presidency as well as a larger and more worrisome willingness of his Muslim Brotherhood to grab onto power without any regard for the extent of bloodshed that could result. This was exemplified by Morsi’s clear failure to mention or even recognize clashes between his supporters and opponents in Mansoura taking place as he spoke, leading to the death of at least one and injuring of over 220.

A second, more implicit theme of the speech was the notion that neither the army nor the police can be counted on to carry out or even necessarily support the continuation of the January 25 Revolution. In attendance of Morsi’s speech was Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who, at least, superficially clapped for the President throughout, sending a message, whether accurate or not, of quiet acceptance if not blatant support. The President also made a clear effort to reach out to the army, police, and Ministry of Interior numerous times, praising their accomplishments in preserving the Egyptian state and increasing their powers through the establishment of a new unit dedicated to, among other things, targeting thuggery. Morsi’s threat to militarily try anyone who speaks ill of the military institution and his reminder that as President he is also the Commander-in-Chief (alluding to the institution’s allegiance to him), sends a message that the Egyptian people are alone in their quest to reform the broken institutions that facilitated the torture of their own people, killed protesters, and detracted from the country’s democratic transition.

In observing the tone of Morsi’s speech, we find a unique mix of petty behavior, paternalistic threats, and complete disregard for truth or reality. Although Morsi began his speech admitting that he had made mistakes during his first year in office, he quickly erased all delusions of humility by listing the names of figures he did not find sufficiently “revolutionary”; this included, but was not limited to a character assassination of former Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, who has a case pending against him. This comes on the back of a slightly ironic fact that Morsi too may have a case pending against him in light of his illegal escape from prison.

Morsi’s threatening finger also made an appearance in Wednesday’s speech, representing the Mubarak-era father-child dynamic between the president and the people. His extensive shout-out and applause for Luxor’s resigned al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya governor and the state of Qatar, his sexist remark about how women should not be swearing, his inappropriate joking on the sale of the Suez Canal for example, and blame-shifting on Egypt’s failed economy state to the liberal activists who refuse to accept the results of the ballot box and instead choose to protest, all came together to highlight a lack of humility and an unwillingness to fulfill his presidential oaths.

Finally, Morsi’s use of questionable statistics to describe his “accomplishments” in tourism, electricity, and unemployment, coupled with his false contentions that military trials had come to a halt (a practice enshrined in Egypt’s constitution), his defense of a ‘brilliant’ constitution, and claim that there are no longer political prisoners in jail (despite the imprisonment of Hassan Mostafa and Ahmed Douma, for example) are indicative of a willingness by Morsi and the Brotherhood to manipulate the Egyptian people in order to remain in power.

Towards the end of his speech, Morsi announced what he presented as tangible action items, including but not limited to the creation of a National Reconciliation Body, more regulations and checks on gas stations, and the incorporation of youth into government. These ideas only further reflect the disregard by which Morsi views the Egyptian people, as they are regressive, recycled, and incapable of truly contending with the deepest issues that the country faces. The political opposition was quick to call Morsi out on failing to offer a clear economic recovery plan, describing his speech as authoritarian and detached from reality.

As Egypt nears the potential brink of civil war in the eyes of some, with a reenergized populace that may be unwilling to accept the status quo, a Brotherhood that will fight to the death to promote their Islamic project, and a collection of defunct political leaders and irresponsible religious and spiritual figures, Morsi’s speech is a stark reminder that his sole allegiance is to the fraternity that brought about his rise and that he will never be the “President of all Egyptians,” let alone the President of Egypt itself.

Mai El-Sadany is a law student at the Georgetown University Law Center, with an intent to focus on international and human rights law in the context of Middle East politics. She is a graduate of Stanford University and formerly worked as a research assistant in Washington, DC.

Photo: Egypt Presidency

Image: Morsi%20Speech_0.jpg