Votes are still being counted and official results are not expected until
Thursday, but Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy has proclaimed himself
triumphant in Egypt’s presidential election and his partisans are already
celebrating a “victory” that rival Ahmed Shafik is hotly contesting.
situation is both chaotic and volatile. The parliament has been dissolved and so
has the constitutional assembly, which was assigned to draft the new
constitution. Without a constitution, nobody knows what powers will be vested in the presidency.
In an attempt to clarify the situation, the ruling
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Sunday issued a “constitutional
declaration” granting greater powers to the army, setting down a timetable and
detailing the prerogatives of the new civil institutions by amending some of the
dispositions of the temporary constitution adopted by referendum in March
The Muslim Brotherhood vehemently opposed the move, which its
believes is intended to curb its influence.
And nearer to Israel,
terrorists attacking from Sinai, whether part of Hamas or of other
organizations, are banking on Morsy’s victory and greater hostility of the
Egyptian regime toward Israel.
As things now stand, the constitutional
declaration severely curtails the prerogatives of the president and enhances
those of the army.
There is nothing to indicate that it will be a
transitory measure; on the contrary, it is meant to remain in force under the
future new regime since the SCAF is invested with the right to take part in the
drafting of the constitution even after the president takes office.
president will still be nominally the commander in chief of the army but will
not be able to declare war without the agreement of the generals.
the SCAF will be empowered to promote officers.
Legislative power is once
again vested in the army, which will also set up the panel to draft a
constitution to be ratified by referendum. Should the panel not complete the
task in the time allotted by the SCAF, the army itself will draft the
constitution. Parliamentary elections will not be held before the constitution
However, the army said it would hand over power to the
president by the end of June, after the constitutional court swears in the
Will it work? What if Shafik is elected? Will the Brotherhood,
the Salafis and the young revolutionaries accept him? The Brotherhood has
already said it would take to the streets to protest what it calls a treasonous
move. How would the army cope with mass demonstrations? If Morsy is declared the
winner, he will fight what he sees as an attempt by the army to take over – from
dissolving the parliament to “usurping” the drafting of the constitution. It is
fairly obvious that Islamist forces cannot expect to repeat their stunning
victory at the polls last winter; it is also clear that the Brotherhood wants a
largely Islamic constitution and needs to be heavily involved in its
It is no less obvious that one of the main objectives of the
constitutional declaration is to protect the army, to grant continued immunity
to the generals sitting on the SCAF even if the Muslim Brotherhood does win rule
of Egypt. On the other hand, the Brotherhood will do its utmost to oust the SCAF
members – who were part of the old regime – and promote a slew of new officers
ready to do its bidding.
The complex relationship between the SCAF and
the Brotherhood has vital implications for Israel. The Egyptian army is not
interested in initiating a confrontation with Israel; hence, perhaps, the true
significance of the disposition forbidding the president to declare war without
the agreement of the army, since it is hardly likely that Egypt would declare
war on its other neighbors such as Libya or Sudan.
The army intends to
continue being the regime’s “silent partner,” as was the case during the Mubarak
Whether this will work is another matter.
relations between Egypt and Israel, Shafik might be more inclined to expand them
for the benefit of his country. Though there is nothing to indicate that the
Brotherhood would cancel the peace treaty and send troops into Sinai – which
could be a casus belli – it would probably pay lip service to the treaty and
keep relations to a minimum, but open the border with Gaza and let people and
commodities go through.
Such a move would strengthen Hamas and enable the
organization to get ahold of state-of-the-art weaponry to intensify its attacks
Recent attacks on the Negev might be a harbinger of things to
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is
a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.