US Senator John McCain condemned the recent actions of President Mohamed Morsy in an interview on Sunday and encouraged the president to retract a controversial constitutional declaration .
“Renounce the [constitutional declaration]… and allow the judiciary to function.” said McCain, when asked what Morsy should do.
When asked if Egypt is headed towards an Islamic state, the senator and former US presidential runner-up said: “I think it could be headed that way.”
McCain went on to say that Morsy’s presidential declaration, seen by many as a consolidation of state powers, “is not what the United States and American taxpayers expect, and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy.”
In the wake of last year’s revolution, US President Barack Obama promised $1 billion in debt relief to Egypt. That money is already a source of contention in a deeply divided American government. Of the package, $450 million has been put on hold, well before Morsy’s declaration, by Republican Representative Kay Granger.
Morsy’s declaration could potentially embarrass the ruling Democratic Party in the US, which refused to listen to domestic naysayers and has shown support for Morsy’s presidency in the form of debt relief, the continuation of military aid, and numerous meetings between high level officials.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being criticised in Egypt for her perceived patronage of the Morsy presidency, with the presidential declaration being singled out as proof that she should have never cooperated with Morsy.
However, Clinton always tempered her support by pointing to the “importance of keeping Egypt’s democratic transition moving forward.” In words that now have an ominous ring, Clinton said after a meeting in July that, “Morsy made clear that he understands the success of his presidency and, indeed, Egypt’s democratic transition depends on building consensus across the Egyptian political spectrum.”
McCain on Saturday used the term “power grab” to describe Morsy’s declaration.
Victoria Nuland, spokesperson for the US department of state, chose more delicate words, but the message was largely the same. “One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person,” and went on to encourage, “a constitution that includes checks and balances and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt’s international commitments.”
Even McCain has not been uniformly against Morsy’s presidency. As recently as Wednesday the senator issued a statement that praised Morsy for his efforts in securing a ceasefire in Gaza. Amidst praise for Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and condemnation of Iranian involvement, McCain credited Morsy: “We also are encouraged by the responsible leadership role played by the President of Egypt and his government. President Morsy deserves credit for successfully bringing an end to the violence.”