Egypt braces for anti-army protests amid presidential vote uncertainty

Egypt braces for anti-army protests amid presidential vote uncertainty

By | 2012-06-19T13:08:41+00:00 June 19th, 2012|News|0 Comments
The Muslim Brotherhood has planned a mass demonstration in Cairo to protest against the ruling military council’s move to claim sweeping new powers. 
 
The army’s manoeuver has been described by critics and opposition activists as a “soft coup,” in which it reclaimed legislative power last week following a court ruling dissolving the Islamist-led parliament.
 
The decision overshadowed the country’s presidential election, which went into its runoff round earlier this week and saw Egyptians choose between the Brotherhood’s candidate Mohammed Mursi and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.
 
“Even as votes were being cast in the second round of the presidential election, the army awarded itself sweeping new powers that will severely limit the scope for Hosni Mubarak’s successor,” wrote Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East editor, on Monday. 
 
The ruling military body, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, has introduced de facto martial law, given itself control of the legislature and state budget and also granted itself veto power on a new constitution.
 
“But the quest for dominance by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces means their ‘soft coup’ would probably have taken place even if the old regime’s Ahmed Shafiq emerged the winner, as many believed he would,” Black added, in reference to Shafiq, who many believed was the military’s favored candidate.
 
But with Mursi likely to assume presidential office, according to preliminary results, the Islamist group has strengthened its oppositional voice, calling for several of the groups that participated in the February 2011 uprising to join the protest. 
 
Revolutionary youth movements, which had been split over whether to boycott the election or to vote Shafiq out, denounced the declaration as a coup. 
 
“The military council, with its unconstitutional coup, gave itself (unprecedented) powers. The military council has never and will never recognize popular legitimacy that contradicts it,” the Coalition of Revolution Youth said in a statement.
 
youth activistsThe Brotherhood insists that parliament still has the power to legislate and said Monday that it would take part in “all popular activities against the constitutional coup and the dissolution of parliament, beginning on Tuesday.”
 
The Brotherhood has vowed to challenge the constitutional declaration, even as it also faces a lawsuit challenging its legitimacy and legal status.
 
The military on Monday sought to quiet fears over the declaration, insisting it will transfer power to the new president on schedule by the end of this month.
 
But Black said that the military’s decision to impose the new laws “adds up to a weak president without a constitution to define his powers or an elected parliament to counterbalance the military, which has been fighting hard to retain its clout since Mubarak was forced to step down in February 2011.”
 
The new president will swear his oath before the constitutional court by “June 30, this month,” Mamdouh Shahin, one of the ruling generals, told a news conference Monday.
 
Another SCAF general, Mohammed al-Assar, said the winner will enjoy full presidential powers.
 
“The president of the republic will be vested with all the powers of the president of the republic,” Assar told reporters, according to AFP news agency.
 
Meanwhile, France on Tuesday voiced concern that Egypt’s military appeared to be clinging to power after a pivotal presidential vote and called for a speedy return to democracy.
 
“A quick and orderly handover of all powers to the civil authorities elected democratically is the best way to respond to the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters. 
 
“We would like the political actors to take this path through dialogue.”
 
The United States on Monday also voiced similar concerns.
 
The vote
 
Mursi’s campaign held a press conference on Tuesday, in which a spokesman announced what he described as official results.
 
According to their figures, Mursi won 52 percent of the vote, while Shafiq lost out to the presidency with 48 percent. 
 
On Monday, when the Brotherhood announced similar figures, Shafiq campaign officials refused to concede victory, saying their figures showed their man was ahead.
 
“It’s a stolen victory because you can’t claim to have won a presidential election while the polling stations are still closing,” Shafiq campaign manager Ahmed Sarhan told reporters.
 
“It’s an act of piracy to claim victory using totally false figures,” he said, adding that preliminary results obtained by the campaign showed Shafiq “still ahead in the vote, with between 51 and 52 percent.”
 
Whoever is declared the winner, the country faces the prospect of a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military over parliamentary and presidential powers.