The Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood are still fighting for
supremacy, with no clear winner so far.
On the one hand, the Supreme
Constitutional Court has refused to strike down the supplementary constitutional
declaration issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (a declaration
granting the generals legislative powers and sole control over the army among
other extraordinary prerogatives); on the other a ruling on the dissolution of
the constituent assembly has been deferred until September.
say, the assembly is working round the clock drafting articles relying heavily
on the Shari’a and asserting the supremacy of civilian authorities, with the
army having to answer to the president. If the constitution is drafted in time,
it will be submitted to the people in a referendum before the court has made
public its decision. It will then be nearly impossible for the court to rule
against the democratically expressed will of the people.
enough, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is invested with the
right to take part in the drafting of the constitution even after the president
takes office, remains silent. No one knows if this is because the generals are
biding their time – or because they are ready to give up.
Mohamed Morsy has at long last appointed a prime minister, Hisham Kandil, a
little-known technocrat known to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood.
new government comprises ministers who are technocrats or Brothers – sometimes
both; two women, one of them the token representative of the Coptic minority;
Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi remains the minister of defense; and a former
general is minister of the interior.
Meanwhile, Ramadan and its
constraints are piling hardship upon hardship on a people who can’t wait to see
some better conditions.
An unprecedented heat wave has led to frequent
power failures and cuts in the water supply at a time when millions of Egyptians
have to fast from sunset to sundown. Most of the country still relies on butane
canisters to cook the end of the fast supper, but supplies are running low and
people have to queue for hours under the scorching sun.
Last week there
was a riot when it became obvious that there would not be enough for all; five
people died, dozens were wounded.
Throughout the country, tempers run
high and quarrels often turn ugly.
Here are some incidents taken from the
Egyptian press: In a small village in Upper Egypt, soldiers are accused of
importuning respectable women; in the ensuing riot security forces open fire,
killing four. A man is killed by guards in an incident in the luxury Nile Towers
complex in Cairo; friends and family from the nearby slums turn to the streets,
burning cars, looting and attacking official buildings.
Dozens of people
are arrested, tear gas floods the tenements.
Sectarian clashes, always a
problem in the country, are escalating, Muslim extremists and Salafis feeling
that they have the support of the government.
In a Cairo suburb, the
shirt of a Muslim customer is accidentally burned by a Coptic laundryman while
ironing. Insults fly, then fighting begins in earnest.
houses belonging to Copts are torched. It takes a whole week to restore calm,
but a number of Coptic families have had to flee.
publicly appeals for tolerance and swears to maintain order.
this is a promise he cannot keep. Order disappeared from the streets a long time
ago. Rich families now send children to school with armed bodyguards – after a
spate of kidnapping for ransom. Women are routinely harassed in the streets.
Hospitals take desperate measures to protect their stocks of drugs from armed
thugs who push their way inside. Tourism, the allimportant source of work for
millions of Egyptians, is plummeting. For the first time in history,
storekeepers in Cairo’s huge Khan el- Khalil market left their stalls to
As usual, the press looks for a scapegoat. There is the
United States of course – witness the popular anger at Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton’s visit – but Israel is the target of choice. A Cairo television
channel thought up a stunt for the long Ramadan programs: A number of
celebrities were called to what they thought was an interview with German
Once in the studio, they were “told” that it was in fact
Israeli television. One enraged actor started hitting the young woman anchor,
throwing her to the ground.
Then there was the bizarre episode of the
presidential letter. President Shimon Peres having sent a message to President
Morsy on the occasion of Ramadan, an answer was duly transmitted to him via the
Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv. The reply was published in the Israeli papers,
provoking anger and indignation in Egypt to such an extent that a spokesman for
Morsy denied the existence of the letter.
Still, last week was not all
bad. The World Bank granted a generous long-term loan to Egypt; the country got
a silver medal in fencing at the Olympic games in London; and lastly, and far
more important, the new minister of sports announced that soccer games,
interrupted since violent incidents in Suez several months ago, would start
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The writer, a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is
a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.