New Egypt: Presidency-Military-Judiciary Conflict
-COL DR. ABDUL RUFF
Military role in Egypt has been increasing ever since the fall of President Mubarak, often turning into rifts. Even as popular movement for better governance in Islamic way continues and with an elected president ready to deliver, the military tries to complicate the matter, making politics murkier. Military is eager to retain its privileges and power in some measure!
When President Mursi was sworn in, just over a week ago, a political truce seemed to come into force but that is only an illusion. As the first big fight between the military and the president, since Mohamed Mursi became Egypt’s first civilian president, both military council and judiciary have come together to defend the military council decision.
The military council which had run Egypt since Mubarak was toppled in February 2011 sought to trim the president’s authority before the handover on June 30. It had dissolved parliament and taken legislative power for itself. The military closed parliament last month after a court ruling. Now the military has warned the president to obey the law and the constitution.
Mursi won the country’s first free presidential election last month, and army chiefs formally handed over power on 30 June. Before Mursi’s inauguration, the military granted itself sweeping powers. The commanders’ constitutional declaration stripped the president of any authority over the military, gave military chiefs legislative powers, and the power to veto the new constitution, which has yet to be drafted.
On President Mursi’s orders, the speaker has convened a meeting of parliament on 10th July. The new president issued an order recalling parliament dissolved by the military council – putting him directly at odds with military. He also ordered new elections for parliament – once a constitution is passed by referendum. After new President Mohammed Mursi ordered the assembly to reopen, Egypt’s military council has said the decision to dissolve the country’s parliament must be upheld. Egypt’s parliament speaker Saad al-Katatni said the chamber would reconvene on Tuesday after the new Islamist president defied the generals by quashing their decision to dissolve the assembly last month. Katatni, like Mursi, hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-time adversary of Mubarak and the other military men who ruled Egypt for six decades until June 30, when power was formally handed over to Mursi by the army council.
Responding a day after Mohamed Mursi’s decree, the army defended its action to dissolve parliament. The Supreme Constitutional Court rejected the decree issued by Mursi the day before to reconvene the Islamist-dominated parliament. The court said its 14 June ruling – that the law governing Egypt’s first democratic elections in more than six decades was unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents – was binding and final.
As well as riling the army and judiciary, the move raises tensions between the Brotherhood, the biggest winners so far in Egypt’s political transformation, and “liberal” and other groups concerned by what they see as an Islamist power grab. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, which has a handful of seats in parliament, condemned the president’s recall of the assembly, saying it was a “violation of the judicial power” and resembled the high-handed approach long seen from the army.
The dispute is part of a broader power struggle which could take years to play out, pitting long sidelined Islamists against the generals seeking to keep their privileges and status and a wider establishment still filled with Mubarak-era officials. The row threatens new uncertainty for a nation whose economy is on the ropes and where many are anxious for an end to the political turmoil after 17 turbulent months since the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
With a big demonstration planned for Tahrir Square, the political temperature is rising by the hour. The Muslim Brotherhood – which has the biggest bloc of seats in parliament – said it would participate on Tuesday “in a million-man march in support of the president’s decision and reinstating parliament”.
MPs gathered for a formal session on Tuesday morning and they were allowed back in the building on 09th July for the first time since parliament was dissolved and military guards placed outside, providing a glimmer of hope that a compromise might be possible…
One fails to understand as to who had allowed party members to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents and then using that as an excuse dissolve the parliament. In stead of dissolving the parliament, causing problems and difficulties, the better option would have been to order new polls only in those continuances with specific notification that only reserved category alone are eligible to contest. The election commission should ensure that only the approved people alone contest.
The military council has less formal room for maneuver now that it has transferred presidential powers to Mursi, even if it has removed some powers from that office. He, however, is in a position that would have seemed unimaginably strong to the Brotherhood a year and half ago, when it was still banned and its members were being hounded by Mubarak.
Some analysts said Mursi’s decision to order early elections could offer a compromise by acknowledging the court’s assertion that the election to the chamber breached some legal rules. One European diplomatic source said recalling parliament gave Mursi leverage over the military, but could also placate Islamists who dominate the assembly so that Mursi would have a freer hand to pick a broader cabinet with non-Islamist members.
As the court had not itself ordered the dissolution of parliament, President Mursi was not directly victory3challenging a court order. And Mursi had been quite legitimate in suspending the dissolution until new parliamentary elections took place within 60 days of a new constitution being ratified. The constitutional court is due to hear a number of appeals against the decree on Tuesday. About 20 suits against Mursi’s decree had been presented to various courts. Adding to the murky outlook that is unsettling investors, legal wrangling looks set to continue. Following the judges’ dissolution of parliament and scrapping of a constitutional drafting panel appointed by parliament, further challenges in the courts could yet derail a second drafting panel.
Just like its politics, Egypt’s economy is also in tatters. In one of his most high-profile meetings since taking office, Mursi met US Deputy Secretary William Burns at the presidential palace on 08 July, signaling the new ties Washington is forging with resurgent Islamists in the region. Burns pledged that the USA, which grants the Egyptian armed forces $1.3 billion a year in military aid, would support Egypt’s economy, which has been hemorrhaging cash and is heading for a balance of payments and budget crisis. Once a darling of emerging market fund managers, Egypt has watched foreign investors flee and its vital tourist trade has taken a big knock from the turmoil of the last year and a half. Foreign reserves have plunged to about $15.5 billion, less than half their level before anti-Mubarak protests erupted, and the government has been forced to pay double-digit interest rates, seen as unsustainable, to fund its spending.
Mursi’s decision hands those powers back to a parliament packed now with his Islamist allies.
Military’s latest intervention is seen by some as a challenge and warning to the president, sworn in barely a week ago. The statement from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) will infuriate the Muslim Brotherhood. Members of the Brotherhood believe it was the military that failed to respect the law by giving itself new powers after dissolving parliament last month.
The Brotherhood played down any dispute. Despite the apparent tensions, the president and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads Scaf, appeared together recently at a military cadet graduation ceremony. Seated side-by-side, Mursi and Tantawi turned to each other in a brief jovial exchange, television images showed.
د. عبد راف
Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism; Educationalist;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst-columnist;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements(Palestine,Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc); Former university Teacher;/website:abdulruff.wordpress.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org