The Brotherhood in power, cont.

Brotherhood Struggles to Exert Political Power in Egypt - NYTimes.com

David Kirkpatrick writes:

Mr. Morsi still appears to exercise little day-to-day authority over the judiciary, the police, the military and the state-run news media.

“If you think of the main pillars of the bureaucracy, the Brotherhood has not gotten control of them yet, and I don’t think they will completely,” said Hani Shukrallah, 62, the left-leaning editor of an English-language state news Web site who was recently was asked to retire by its new management. “There are so many people who are very difficult to bring to heel,” he said. “I think we are in for several years of turbulence where state power is diffused.”

Although Mr. Morsi has the legitimacy of a democratic election, he has inherited the still-intact remnants of Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian state, built on fear, loyalty and patronage, and much of it permeated by a deep distrust of the Islamists.

It is very true and important to highlight the difficulties the Morsi administration has had to get effective control of the bureaucracy — that part of government that implements decisions taken by the presidency, parliament, and the courts. Some parts of the state bureaucracy are in a state of passive aggressive rebellion, like the police. Others, like the military and the intelligence services, can act semi-independently because that is the nature of the deal that Morsi has negotiated. 

But it is odd to lament that the president of a country that is supposedly trying to democratize exercises "little day to day authority" over the judiciary and the state media. He's simply not supposed to, yet  has tried to intimidate the judiciary and is putting his yes-men in the media rather than either dissolving state media (i.e. privatizing it) or reforming it to make it independent. We don't  wonder aloud why David Cameron can't control the BBC or the Lords Justices, after all.

The quote he has there from Supreme Court Justice Maher El-Beheiry is apt in this regard:

The president of the court sneered with disdain at a lawyer for the Muslim Brotherhood trying to address the reconfigured bench, stripped of 7 of its 18 members. “As if you left a court to be spoken of like this!” Judge Maher el-Beheiry snapped. He had already declared that the court, perceived as an enemy of the Islamists, “can never forget” the Brotherhood’s protests against it during the constitutional debate.

Like it or not, the challenge of post-Mubarak Egypt is not so much Mubarak holdovers who are plotting (what are they plotting, exactly, bringing him back?) as the centrifugal forces that are pushing state institutions towards corporatism and an obsession with autonomy. It's not an altogether unhealthy thing, but often goes too far. And the challenge for Egypt's first post-Mubarak president is managing these forces and institutions in a manner that asserts his constitutional authority without antagonizing them. That kind of skill in a politician is usually called statesmanship, and thus far Morsi has not shown much of it.

Do read the piece, which has glimpses of a wide range of the state machine that is in semi-rebellion against Morsi and the Brotherhood, sometimes for bad and sometimes for good reasons.