Tawakkol Karman: Morsi is the Arab World’s Nelson Mandela

Yemeni journalist Tawakkol Karman continues to romanticize the Presidency of deposed Egyptian leader Mohammed Morsi, now comparing him to Nelson Mandela. I could take issue with this for a few different reasons, but to put it succintly, Mandela was patient, tactful and tirelessly committed to the principles of democracy; Morsi is eager, opportunistic and sought to consolidate power by giving himself legislative powers free of any oversight whatsoever.

Hani Sabra and Bassem Sabry have an excellent rebuttal on Al-Monitor.com:

…equating Morsi with Mandela is myopic, cynical and betrays a deep misunderstanding of Morsi’s brief presidency and Mandela’s long struggle for freedom. Mandela is everything Morsi is not. Following a career as an anti-apartheid revolutionary and almost three decades of imprisonment before his election, then-President Mandela moved swiftly to heal the deep rifts that plagued South African society. He led a national unity government and oversaw the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that, despite criticism, succeeded in turning the focus of the country toward the future. Mandela was not perfect, but he proved particularly adept at taking the long view, at understanding the symbolism and impact of each of his actions, and he consistently strived to build bridges and create consensus without losing sight of his principles.

Morsi, on the other hand, is a member of a group that has at best a questionable commitment to and a skewed understanding of democracy, and that — following a razor-thin electoral margin — moved quickly and aggressively to consolidate power. Mandela was a visionary, while Morsi was a short-term tactician who refused to see the benefits of building and reinforcing coalitions. A telling and ironic example was his approach to security-sector reform. Morsi could have begun to reform the feared security apparatus had he at least maintained the electoral coalition that ushered him to power, and would likely have succeeded if he had broadened it. Today, that apparatus, which he heaped praise upon when he believed he could eventually bring it under his control, is being used against him and his supporters. Additionally, Mandela was — and remains — a popular national leader, earning the respect and admiration of even his one-time critics and affectionately referred to as “Tata,” meaning “father.”

It is worth noting that prior to the military coup, Karman had called for Morsi to resign, citing the legitimacy of the Revolution was “stronger” than any other legitimacy. As the Al-Monitor article points out, it is curious that Karman has been putting forward such a positive image of Morsi now that he has been ousted.

While committed to political inclusiveness, she even appeared not to be averse to the notion of the military ousting Morsi and creating a presidential council while suspending the constitution. All of this makes Karman’s sudden heaping of praise on Morsi incomprehensible and incompatible
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