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Egypt's President Morsi and opposition must talk – and fix the constitution

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That parliament, which took office in January 2012 and was dominated by the FJP and even more conservative Islamist elements, predictably mucked up the job by creating a largely self-serving, heavily Islamist constitutional drafting committee that was only minimally agreeable to Egypt’s many political, economic, and religious groups.

But even before Morsi won the final June 2012 run-off to claim the presidency, a court ruling dissolved the six-month-old parliament. This not only deprived Egypt of any countervailing institutional check on the presidency; it has also created a situation where the country’s opposition has had no democratic channel through which to express its dissatisfaction with the current government.

The most recent political crisis stemmed from Morsi’s appointment of Islamist politicians to govern Egypt’s provinces, including the tone-deaf decision to appoint a member of the Islamic Group to lead Luxor. This is the very organization that perpetrated the horrifying terrorist attack that killed 58 foreign tourists there in 1997. The governor resigned due to the controversy.

Why does the president of Egypt still get to appoint the governors of the country’s provinces? In most democratic states, candidates compete to lead provincial  governments. If a ruling party loses a number of regional elections, citizens are sending a strong signal that they prefer the opposition and want changes in policy.

Of course, no such system of signaling exists in Egypt, not only because there is no legal parliament, but also because Morsi and his allies rushed through a constitution that kept all policymaking centralized in Cairo – a highly inefficient system that’s more akin to authoritarianism than anything else. The resulting government seems incapable of keeping the lights on, let alone devising solutions to Egypt’s most intractable problems.

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