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.


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.


More on This Story

Egypt transition


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  • rate this

    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

    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

    Comment number 37.

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

  • rate this

    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

    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?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The military always supported a secular state, and are horrified at the support the Muslim Brotherhood gained throughout the process. Rather than having an Islamic state the spanner is thrown into the works by way of a disguised coup. There is the devil, and the devil to choose from in all of this. Whichever direction Egypt goes, the rocky road with the dreams of true Democracy might lie in ruins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Just as with Syria, this is none of our business. Best to stay out of it, dont take sides and let the people of Egypt and Syria sort out their own business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    ProfPhoenix Moderated out? Ok the Muslim Brother are the political arm of Hamas as the BBC has said and have reiterated that Hamas is a terroist organisation, they are accountable for the deaths of over 100 Isreali children and many more. They are also instigating a Muslim state, though I think they've backed out now. However when the Military arrested NGO workers who negotiated their release?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Where are the political parties in Egypt? All that protesting and fighting then Egypt ends up with a choice between the Devil or God.

    The majority want neither of these two, They want a decent and proper government to be able to live decent and proper lives, while the military rolls back into power, dictating everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    interesting how the bbc censures comment - did someone higher up suddenly decide it was better not to hear peoples views on this - god knows the british government will have not view on it! better to invite comment on things like google's new gizmo, olympic torch medleys or david cameron's hairstyle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    We have to recognise that BBC reports from the beginning of the so called Arab Spring have supported the Muslim Brotherhood. It has been described as a benign organisation, moderate, a charity and more. Others throughout the world disagree. Can't say more as I will be moderated out. Shame about the fate of Christians in Egypt, but Christians are not well liked by the Beeb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The Egyptian people deserve a much better government. They have been disrespected, mistreated, and downtrodden for too long.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Too much power is in the hands of government? Largely anywhere where this happens you'll find trouble.

    "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." Thomas Jefferson

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I would prefer the Military to an Islamist Brotherhood anyday. The things done in the name of Islam are just too scary. A brotherhood in power is comparable to an extremist group in power. Their is something sinister even in the name that makes ones blood curl. Even though both parties may not be favourable to the egyptians it is better safe than sorry not just for the Egyptians but for Africa.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The Arab spring a year on. Is anything really different in Egypt now but if the 'Brotherhood' take power then all will be drastically different. Talk about going backwards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    And what of the Copts, the original Egyptians who make up 10 to 15% of the population and are Christian. The BBC has not once mentioned this fact on any of the broadcasts I have seen. Egypt under The MB rule with sharia law would mean a situation worse than apartheid for the Copts. It would also mean war with Israel as MB have already been implicated in rocket attacks despite the peace treaty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    So the Arab Spring has now descended into perpectual winter. Unfortunately it was always going to happen but the western media loved the romance of it all and gave those poor souls false hope.

    Middle Eastern politics is not for the faint hearted and cannot be understood using our standards. When the people shout for democracy, someone always finds a way to get power.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Sadly no surprise at this development, the old regime has done everything it can to keep hold of power, replacing a dictator with a dictatorship by committee (the SCAF) & thwarting any gains made by the revolution & Muslim B. Remember how the army was the savior & guarantor of the revolution back in 2011, lauded by the public? This will not be forgotten, the revolution must continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Great so now the military keep all the same power they did under Mubarak (yep that "great" part was sarcastic)...I should mention the Muslim Brotherhood are very popular so not sure how they are "being sold down river" by them. Also the MB have shown time and time again they are accepting of the Christians and are co-operative to Western states (NGO crisis for one). So I am not too fearful of them

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Muslim Brotherhood announce they won shortly after boxes were open, reminds me of Ahmadinejad of Iran when he done the same thing in 2009 that created the Green Revolution. Yes, there's a shades of Mullah about the Brotherhood & with their leader being so softly spoken & all embracing I wouldn't be surprised if there was a sting in the tail. A Sharia sting, Shafiq will be the military's winner!


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