Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders 311 (R).
(photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)
The military establishment running Egypt’s interim regime is discreetly moving
to ensure that the army retains its influence over Cairo’s post-revolutionary
government – leading some who welcomed former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster
to question whether Egypt can break free from the iron grip the military has
kept over the country for most of its modern history.
Bowing to popular
pressure, the Supreme Military Council announced last week that it would draft a
set of guidelines for writing a new constitution after national elections,
originally scheduled for September but which could be held as late as
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The move was prompted by widespread concerns of Islamist
influence over the constitution. But critics say the army’s domination of the
drafting process – and its deepening ties with Islamist groups like the Muslim
Brotherhood – is itself cause for concern.
“The militarist rulers made a
deal with Islamists that they would release some of their prisoners and empower
their voice, so that they would in return ensure that militarists keep being
above the law, ever since [the] 1952 coup,” an Egyptian who blogs under the name
Kefaya Punk told The Jerusalem Post by email.
Egypt’s military leaders
have enjoyed nearly unchallenged power since the 1952 coup against the
The Associated Press quoted Maj.-Gen. Mamdouh
Shaheen, a member of the council that is leading the
constitution-drafting process, as saying this week that the country’s
should safeguard the army against the “whims” of a future president – in
asking for the armed forces to be given virtually complete
Hisham Bastawisi, a legal expert consulting for the
military, went further, suggesting the army be vested with the role of
“guaranteeing supra-constitutional principles.”
On Wednesday, a key
member of the constitutional panel said most of its members oppose permitting
the army a significant role in politics. Legal expert Tahany el-Gibali said the
new constitution would have guarantees to protect all Egyptians while also
safeguarding the civilian character of the state.
activists fear the worst.
“Forget about freedom if militarists aren’t
held accountable for their actions,” said Kefaya Punk.
suggestion won’t free us.”
On Tuesday, Gibali said that following
elections, the parliament would appoint a 100-person panel to draft the official
constitution, including 20 constitutional experts and 80 people representing
various segments of the Egyptian population – including farmers, human rights
activists, businesspeople and Islamists – in “equal proportions.” The Muslim
Brotherhood opposed the move.
“The military in Egypt is unlike militaries
in other countries where the military is isolated from the political life,”
Gibali told The New York Times
The armed forces continue to enjoy
unparalleled prestige at home, due in large part to the damage they inflicted on
Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“The military’s legacy gives it a
special credibility, and hence it is only normal that the military will share
some of the responsibility in protecting the constitutional legitimacy and the
civil state,” she said.
Unlike Egypt’s police, the military was largely
spared the public’s wrath during the 18-day protests that forced Mubarak out on
February 11. Since then, the public’s patience has been tested as military
courts have been slow to pursue trials against the former president and
administration officials, and Cairo’s central Tahrir Square has again filled
with angry protesters demanding faster democratic reform.
are increasingly targeting the military itself. Last week, a coalition of 24
political groups and five presidential candidates threw their support behind an
initiative to force the army to relinquish power to civilian authorities now
rather than wait for national elections.