Egypt's military grants itself sweeping powers

 

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo explains the implications of the military's move

Egypt's ruling military has issued a declaration granting itself sweeping powers, as the country awaits results of Sunday's presidential elections.

The document by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf) says new general elections cannot be held until a permanent constitution is drawn up.

Opposition groups condemned the move as amounting to a military coup.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood says unofficial results show its candidate, Mohammed Mursi, has won the election.

The Scaf issued its declaration late on Sunday - just hours after the polls closed.

It confirmed on Monday that it plans to hand over power to the winner of the poll at the end of June.

However, the constitutional declaration issued by the Scaf effectively gives it legislative powers, control over the budget and over who writes the permanent constitution following mass street protests that toppled Mr Mubarak, reports say. It also strips the president of any authority over the army.

Interim Constitutional Declaration

  • Issued by ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scaf)
  • Amends Constitutional Declaration of March 2011
  • Grants Scaf powers to initiate legislation, control budget, appoint panel to draft new constitution
  • Postpones new parliamentary elections until new constitution is approved
'Grave setback'

However, prominent political figure Mohamed ElBaradei already described the document as a "grave setback for democracy and revolution".

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the first round of voting and was the favoured candidate of many in the protest movement, said the declaration was a "seizure of the future of Egypt".

"We will not accept domination by any party," Mr Sabahi said.

Another former presidential candidate, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, called the declaration "unconstitutional", while the influential 6 April protest movement called for mass demonstrations on Tuesday against the declaration.

Analysis

Despite the celebrations by Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the Mursi campaign headquarters and in Tahrir Square that started in the early hours, this was not a clear victory.

Just as polls closed, the ruling generals issued a new constitutional declaration that will keep their hands on the reins of power and restrict the role of the new president.

The military made themselves Egypt's lawmakers after parliament was dissolved last week. They have control over the national budget and heavy influence over who writes the new permanent constitution.

At a lengthy news conference on Monday to give more details, armed forces spokesmen insisted that their legislative power would be "restricted". Maj Gen Mohamed al-Assar said a ceremony would take place at the end of the month to hand over to the new president.

If Mr Mursi is confirmed in that role, a power struggle between the Brotherhood and the military - two of Egypt's strongest forces - could ensue.

Parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni of the Muslim Brotherhood said the declaration was "null and void".

The Brotherhood had earlier urged Egyptians to protect their revolution after the Scaf dissolved parliament - dominated by the Brotherhood - on Saturday.

Two days earlier, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that last year's legislative polls were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.

Soldiers have already been stationed around the parliament with orders not to let MPs enter.

Law and order

Mr Mursi ran in Sunday's poll against Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister under former President Hosni Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood said Mr Mursi was holding a 52%-48% lead over Mr Shafiq with almost all the vote counted after Sunday's second-round run-off election.

Speaking at his party headquarters, Mr Mursi pledged to be a president for all Egyptians, adding that he would not "seek revenge or settle scores".

Hundreds of Mr Mursi's supporters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate his declaration of victory.

But Mr Shafiq's campaign said it rejected "completely" the victory claimed by Mr Mursi.

Election candidates

Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Mursi

Ahmed Shafiq (l)

  • Aged 70
  • Veteran fighter pilot and former air force commander
  • Appointed Egypt's first aviation minister, earning reputation for competence and efficiency
  • Promoted to PM during February 2011 protests
  • Associated with former regime, though denies being backed by ruling military council
  • Campaigned on a promise to restore security

Mohammed Mursi

  • Aged 60
  • US-educated engineering professor
  • Head of Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)
  • Served as independent MP 2000-05
  • Quietly spoken, viewed by some as lacking charisma
  • Has promised "stability, security, justice and prosperity" under an Islamic banner

"We are astonished by this bizarre behaviour which amounts to a hijacking of the election results," Shafiq campaign official Mahmud Barakeh was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

Official results from the Higher Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) will be announced on Thursday, state TV reported.

Polls began closing at 22:00 (20:00 GMT) on Sunday, after voting was extended by two hours.

Turnout appeared to be down compared to the first round, as many voters have expressed scepticism at the choices they faced.

The BBC's Jon Leyne says that there was less enthusiasm in the run-off election than there was for previous rounds of voting, and some called for a boycott or spoiled ballots.

Mr Shafiq has campaigned on a platform of a return to stability and law-and-order which, correspondents say, many find attractive after months of political turmoil.

But to his critics, the former air force officer is the army's unofficial candidate and a symbol of the autocratic days under Mubarak.

Mr Mursi, meanwhile, has cast himself as a revolutionary and part of the movement that overthrew Mubarak, and has promised economic and political reform.

He has also softened his religious stance in an attempt to attract liberals and minorities.

Mr Shafiq came second in last month's first round, in which turnout among the 52 million eligible voters was only 46%. Official results then gave Mr Mursi 24.8% and Mr Shafiq 23.7%.

The Scaf has vowed to hand over power to the winner by 30 June.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    I lived the Algerian civil war in 90s when military seized power and cancelled the elections, this led to at least 120000 deaths in 10 years, every family was touched, I wish the Egypt's military wont do the same mistake, and I believe egyptian people which have led great peaceful revolution have the right to decide whats best for them, which, unfortunatley, Mubarek regime never granted them. GLE

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 38.

    Here are lessons from history in the making. Hopefully the West will lern from them. Support the Islamist insurgents in Syria and this will be the only end result. Cultural evolution is what they really need, and that is not going to happen in any of our lifetimes.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    The military have not been 'granted' these powers. They have seized them. There is a difference.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 36.

    Those singing the praises of Mubarak as somehow progressive would do well to recall the identity cards he introduced - declaring whether women were virgins and/or married - the military police on every corner and secret police in every society, the pogroms against copts, the government run press, the police beatings, the outlawing of political parties, the inequality and the billions he embezzled.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    I've lived in Egypt for 5 years. It has been riddled with corruption from the top down. Unfortunately it's been the norm to give backhanders - sometimes it's the only way to get things done. Whoever eventually wins, once the parliament & presidential mess has been sorted out, the first priority is the people & the economy, NOT sharia law. Are you listening Mr. Mursi?

 

Comments 5 of 39

 

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