The move means that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will
take on parliament's lawmaking duties until the parliament -- which was
dissolved on Saturday -- is elected again. At the same time, the
military council has also taken charge of the national budget and the
development of a new constitution. The new president, to whom the
council says it wants to hand power over to at the end of June, will
have no sway over the country's military forces. Already on Tuesday, the
army gave itself far-reaching legal authority through a sort of
emergency law, which will allow them to try any Egyptian before a
military court. The military now holds legislative, executive and
judicial power -- at least in part.
But Egyptians didn't seem to realize what had befallen them until
Sunday night. The country's citizens had been fixated on the votes being
counted on live television for the presidential election.
Late in the evening, both candidates made victory announcements, with
the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohammed Mursi and former
Mubarak associate Ahmed Shafiq each claiming they received 52 percent of
the vote. The official count isn't expected until Thursday.
The predictable conflict over the election result was the perfect
distraction, but then the outrage spread quickly. In an interview with
broadcaster Alhayat, renowned commentator Aiman Sadshad warned that the
future president would have no possibility of controlling or stopping
decisions by the military council. "The president will be unable to
change the defense minister or the members of the council," he said,
adding that the SCAF was now "untouchable."
Muslim Brotherhood Vows Resistance
Hossam Bahgat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights tweeted
that his country had become a "military dictatorship." Meanwhile,
Egyptian diplomat and former head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, called the military document a "grave
setback" for democracy and the revolution. "SCAF retains legislative
power, strips president of any authority over army and solidifies its
control," the Nobel Peace Prize winner wrote.
The most noteworthy changes are the following:
- There is no civilian over the army. The commander in chief of the
military is no longer the president, but the head of the military
council. Furthermore, the council will elect its own leaders, and the
president can declare war only with the council's approval.
- The military council has given itself the right to veto the yet to
be developed constitution, which means that the 100 members of the
current constitutional assembly will have to present their proposal to
the council. If the council objects to an article, the passage must be
rewritten. Disputes on such matters will be heard by the judges of the
constitutional court, which is filled with judges from the era of
deposed President Hosni Mubarak. And, should the constitutional assembly
encounter too many difficulties, the council can dissolve it and
appoint a new one.
- When a new constitution is finally hammered out, it will be ratified
through a referendum. But only one month after this occurs can a new
parliament be elected. This means that the Egyptian people are likely to
go without representation for quite some time. In the transitional
period the SCAF will take over legislative power. But one of their
amendments already gives the army the right to tackle domestic unrest.
The new Egyptian parliament, freshly elected this winter, was dissolved
by the military council on Saturday after the constitutional court
ruled that one-third of the seats had been illegally assigned. Mandates
reserved for independent candidates were allegedly given to party
members, according to the verdict. It was aimed primarily at members of
the Muslim Brotherhood, who dominated the parliament thanks in part to
these seats. The Islamist party has alleged that by dissolving the
parliament, the military council is trying to correct election results
to suit its preferences.
Overnight, the Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups declared
the constitutional amendments introduced by the military to be invalid.
But the deciding factor will be the winner of the presidential
election. Should former Mubarak associate Ahmed Shafiq win, the generals
are likely to get their way despite resistance from the Islamists. As
Mubarak's last prime minister and a former air force general, Shafiq is
likely to cooperate with them. Massive protests, however, could easily
result, with many Egyptians fearing that the old elite is making a
comeback by slowly turning back the gains of the revolution.
But if Islamist Mursi takes the presidency, things won't be any
easier. He could confront the military, and the Muslim Brotherhood has
already declared it would resist the military council, calling for the
full assembly of the dissolved parliament on Tuesday. At the very least,
the entrance to the building, surrounded by soldiers, could become a
site of unrest.