Egypt's generals issue 'constitutional decree' (updated)

It's supposed to govern the powers granted to the president and lay out conditions for a new parliamentary election.

But that's just the official line. What the generals have decreed is permanent power for the military with a subservient civilian authority.


The military made its move last night, just as polls were closing in the final round of the country's first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year. Coming on the heels of the military's dissolution of an elected parliament and declaration of near martial law, it consolidates the military's power before a new president takes office by the end of the month.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has granted itself legislative authority until a new parliament is elected, control over the process of writing Egypt's permanent constitution, and eliminated any civilian oversight of the military.

"For us, really, it's a declaration of war," says Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "It's a completing or closing a bracket of 18 months of uncertainty and making it abundantly clear that whoever is elected president is not going to have much power, because the only house of power is going to be the military."


In a press conference Monday, two SCAF generals defended the council, saying they would hand over power to the president at the end of this month as promised. They pointed out that the new president will have the authority to appoint all cabinet positions, and to veto legislation.

But their attempt to deflect criticism fell on deaf ears for many in Egypt. "We look at these new powers and we think there is no way we can live with this," Mr.  Bahgat says. "There is no option but to really fight for a civilian democracy."

The devil is in the details. Under the decree, the president and parliament will be unable to challenge the military budget, and there will be no seizing of economic assets held by individual generals. Some observers have likened the outline of the decree to the way that Pakistani generals dominate the civilian government in that country.

While there is talk of civil disobedience, it is unlikely that the massive demonstrations of 2011 will be repeated. Realizing this, the Brotherhood may very well make their peace with the generals in exchange for power sharing. If so, it will represent a hugely cynical move that won't go down well with many of their followers.

Update from Andrew G. Bostom:

Egyptian Presidential Results: Mursi 52%, Shafiq 48%

With 100% of the votes ostensibly counted, Reuters is reporting the following results from Egypt's Presidential election run-off final round:

..Islamic [Muslim] Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi has claimed victory in the Egyptian presidential election, winning 52 percent of the ballots, his campaign headquarters claimed on Monday morning. The opposing candidate, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, gained 48 percent. "These are confirmed results, all counted ballots from all voting stations are with written guarantees of the election commissions," Mursi's campaign headquarters said.