THE resignation from Egypt's Shura Council, the upper house of
its parliament, last week, of a Christian, Nadia Henry, who had
been appointed by President Mohammed Morsi, was a further sign of
the turmoil in the country's politics. While Egypt faces
increasingly difficult economic conditions, alongside chronic
political polarisation, two cabinet ministers have also
Ms Henry, a representative of the Coptic Evangelical Church of
Egypt, was one of 90 people chosen by the President to sit in the
270-seat Shura Council, which has legislative authority until the
election of a new parliament later this year. It received this
authority under the new constitution.
Ms Henry said that she was initially honoured to be appointed to
the Council, which is dominated by Islamists, because she believed
that the appointees would be selected to ensure the fair
representation of other sections of society. She subsequently
discovered, however, that one third of the 90 people chosen were
also Islamists. As a result, she decided that she could not be a
representative of the people "under the domination of a single
faction which controls 88 per cent of the seats and votes of the
respected Shura Council - even though it is supposed to represent
the full spectrum of Egyptian society".
The deputy head of the Coptic Evangelical Church, Dr Andrea
Zaki, said that Ms Henry's decision was a personal one, and that a
replacement would be nominated. A second church representative
would remain in the Shura Council.
President Morsi is pressing ahead with his political programme,
having secured the endorsement of 64 per cent of those who voted in
the referendum. Turnout was only 33 per cent. But his opponents are
keeping up their campaign against him, alleging that the vote was
marred by fraud and other irregularities.
All this is happening against a background of worsening economic
difficulties. While the President, in a speech last Saturday,
sought to reassure the public that the economy was recovering, the
evidence before Egyptians indicates otherwise. Unemployment is
soaring and prices are rising, and there seems little hope of
improvement in the near future: political upheavals and outbursts
of violence are defying official efforts to portray the country as
one that is settling down.
As income from Suez Canal fees are the only significant source
of foreign revenue, Egypt faces economic disaster. Discussions with
the IMF over a $4.8-billion loan will resume later this month. To
qualify, however, the government will have to lift some of the
subsidies on food and fuel, which it is reluctant to do.
President Morsi has been forced to accept the resignation of two
cabinet ministers, one of them an Islamist. Both expressed
frustration at the government's inability to tackle the problems of
The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badei, has called
on Egyptians to "achieve internal reconciliation". But opposition
groups are calling for a second revolution on 25 January, the
anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.