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
    +11

    Comment number 1.

    Under Mubarak there was freedom of worship, minorities were protected and women had rights. If the Muslim brotherhood gain power, all of these freedoms and protections will be swept away and the Egyptian people will be living under an Islamic dictatorship and ruled by Sharia law. Though it may be unpopular, the military are right to insist on a binding constitution for the people of Egypt

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 8.

    #2

    They certainly deserve better than an Islamist goverment.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 13.

    During the swine flu "epidemic" the Egyptian government used it as an excuse to slaughter every single pig in the country in order to keep the fundamentalists happy; they didn't like pigs being on Muslim land. This is the level of rationality we're dealing with here - we can only hope that the Brotherhood doesn't gain power otherwise non-Muslim Egyptians are going to have a pretty rough time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 18.

    I find it hard to sympathize with the so called Islamic brotherhood. In a country where about 90% of the people are Muslims calling your self such a name almost guarantees you a win. Democratic parties should focus less on religion and more on growth, human rights and bring stability to its population. I am getting tired of humans not evolving to more peaceful creatures.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    Instead of the fresh youthful faces of 2011 there are more Talibanic beards appearing as demonstrators. Egyptians, watch what you are praying for aka Brtherhood]. Just ask the Iranians whether they prefer what you have or a theocracy based on a few people's idea about God. You've have Islam your whole life. Why suddenly someones comes along to tell you you need to be more Islamic?

 

Comments 5 of 39

 

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