I like to think I have the ear of Kings, Queens and Presidents. (If you believe that, I have beachfront property in New Mexico for you!) But I can dream.
Dear President Morsi:
Many people (including I) had great expectations when you were elected last year. Today it seems the end of your Presidency is near.
I just heard that the Egyptian military has given an ultimatum. They want you to make a deal with the protesters in the street within 48 hours or the military will step in with their own road map for the future of the country.
Now the protesters know they only have to wait 48 hours; they don’t need to make any deals with you; the military is on their side. What can you do?
Here’s what I would do if I was in your shoes:
- Minimize violence. Egypt doesn’t need more martyrs. Send messages to your military, your cabinet, the police and local government officials, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, that violence is antithetical to democracy, and you do not want to see bloodshed at any cost. You should get on TV right away and share the same message.
- Apologize and help with the transition. Stepping aside is not a sign of failure, it signals that the revolution that began in January 2011 continues to unfold. No leader could have turned the Egyptian economy around in such a short time; no leader could have cleansed the bureaucracy built by Mubarak of the insidious corruption. You made mistakes certainly, and you should acknowledge the mistakes so that future leaders can learn from them. But you tried your best and now it is time to help with the transition.
- Build a coalition. The Muslim Brotherhood, after winning the election a year ago, thought it had some sort of mandate. I think that arrogance and self-righteousness fueled the current protesters’ rage. “Democracy” does not mean “Rule by Muslim Brotherhood.” In a democratic nation, people of all shades and stripes must work together. That’s why I think America is teetering on the edge of losing its imprimatur as a democratic nation. As you transition out of office, help build the coalition needed to govern Egypt in the years to come.
- Cleanse the halls of corruption. In your last days in office, you should do some serious house-cleaning. You know where the old Mubarak gang resides, and you have the power to dismiss them. I don’t know why you didn’t do this early in your Administration; maybe you wanted to be cautious. But if you have any power or authority left, I recommend you sweep them out now.
I am truly sorry that you didn’t have the chance to finish your 4-year term. I had high hopes when you were elected, as I wrote here and here. Now I hope you will provide leadership by example and show the world how a peaceful transition works on the path towards democracy.