Military Dictatorship in Egypt - now fully in place

What is determining Egypt's future is not happening at the polls.

- Sherine Tadros, Al-Jazeera

[SCAF’s] new constitutional declaration completed Egypt’s official transformation into a military dictatorship.
- Hossam Bahgat, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights

Egyptians were depressed leading up to this weekend’s presidential elections – from business men to college students to waiters and taxi drivers, people I’ve met all week keep using this word: “depressed.”  It reflects the horrible political situation, and it reflects the dismal, “depressed” economic situation.  And for all of them, personally, it reflects their moods.  And so, there was zero enthusiasm for either of the two choices Egyptians were facing at the polls on Saturday and Sunday: the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammad Mursi and the regime’s candidate Ahmad Shafiq. 

There is nothing to boost Egyptians' spirits now that the results are coming in.  No matter who is declared the “winner”, the military will remain in near-full control of the political, security, judicial, and budgetary levers of power for some time to come. 

SCAF – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – has been directing events since February 11, 2011 (when Hosni Mubarak stepped down).  They’ve sent superficially correct signals to the world and to Egyptians that they would be stepping away from power on July 1, 2012, once a President was elected.  But events of the past week, on top of other actions over the past year, belie any of their claims to allow a democracy to develop in Egypt. 

JUNE 13:  Egypt's justice ministry issued a decree allowing military police and intelligence officers to arrest civilians suspected of crimes.  This decree restores some of the powers of the infamous emergency law, which human rights and other activists fought for decades to end and which SCAF abandoned on May 31.

JUNE 14:  Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court declares that 1/3rd of the Parliament was disqualified, and therefore the entire Parliament was to be dissolved.  SCAF announces that it will assume all legislative powers, on top of all executive (“presidential”) powers it has held since February 11, 2011.  SCAF also announces that it will form a new 100-member constituent assembly, to write the new Constitution.

JUNE 17:  Within minutes of the polls closing on the final day of presidential elections, SCAF issued a new “constitutional declaration” (amending its March 2011 “constitutional decree”) severely curtailing presidential powers and dictating its own near-total autonomy in military affairs.  

JUNE 18:  civil advisors to SCAF are saying that the newly elected president is an “interim” president and that he will not last a full term; and, that new elections for president will come again (within a year?), after the constitution is agreed.

With these combined judicial and military declarations, the transition to military dictatorship is “complete” (as Hossam Bahgat decries).   A new president, especially a Muslim Brotherhood leader, will have no authority over the military.  Nor will any future Parliament.  Most notably, the President is no longer to be considered the “Commander in Chief”; that role is assumed by the head of SCAF, which will continue to function as a body even after the current SCAF, headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, recedes into the background.  Now we know that this “background” is not what people assumed would happen – SCAF will continue in its “supremely” powerful control over military and security matters, including all budgetary decisions around the military forces. 

Any hope for a democratic Egypt, with checks and balances between and among the traditional bodies of a democracy: executive, legislative, and judicial branches, is now altered radically.  An old institution – the military – will now have a radically enhanced role, fundamentally upsetting the traditional balancing powers.


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