19 June 2012As Egypt wrangles over the victor of weekend polls, the army emerges as the true winner by granting itself sweeping powers restricting the new president’s power.
The results of Egypt’s first free presidential vote is still an unknown as both sides claimed victory yesterday even as the country’s ruling military issued a constitutional document that accorded itself sweeping powers.
The campaign team for Ahmed Shafiq, Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister, said yesterday that its candidate was ahead in the presidential race “beyond all doubts” just hours after the Muslim Brotherhood had claimed its candidate, Mohammed Morsi, was ahead. A confirmed win by Morsi would mark the first time Islamists have been elected to the presidency in Egypt, but the military rulers’ moves to consolidate power ahead of the final results have rendered any future president toothless. With Parliament dissolved, the generals issued an interim constitution granting themselves sweeping authorities that ensure their hold on the state and subordinate the president.
According to this constitution, they will be Egypt’s lawmakers, they will control the budget and they will determine who writes the permanent constitution that will define the country’s future. Parliamentary Speaker Saad al-Katatni, a Brotherhood member, said the Constituent Assembly appointed by the Parliament would continue its work, Agence France-Presse reported. The president will be able to appoint a Cabinet and approve or reject laws.
Scenes of jubilation
Notably, the declaration prevents him from changing the make-up of the military council and gives Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi the commander-in-chief powers that previously went to the president. The military pledged to hand power to the winner of this weekend’s election by June 30 and said he would enjoy full presidential powers. There were scenes of jubilation at Morsi’s headquarters, where the candidate himself thanked Egyptians for their votes in brief remarks, after the Brotherhood said he had won 52 percent of the vote.
Morsi pledged to work to “hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace.” By the group’s count, Morsi took 13.2 million votes, or 51.8 percent, to Ahmed Shafiq’s 48.1 percent, of 25.5 million votes with more than 99 percent of the more than 13,000 poll centers counted. Later yesterday, Shafiq campaign claimed he had won between 51-52 percent.
“We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts,” Morsi said, adding that he would build a “modern, democratic state” for all Egypt’s citizens. The jubilation was overshadowed however by a looming showdown between the Brotherhood and the ruling military, which issued a new constitutional document shortly after polls closed, granting it sweeping powers.
‘Military hands power to the military’
Under the document, new parliamentary elections will not be held until a new constitution is approved, likely meaning an election in December at the earliest. In the constitution-writing process, the military can veto any articles and the Supreme Constitutional Court, which is made up of Mubarak-era appointees, will have the final say over any disputes. The constitution will also have to be adopted by a referendum. “The military hands power to the military,” read the headline of the daily al-Masry al-Youm. “A president with no powers,” read the huge headline of the independent al-Shorouk. Revolutionary youth movements denounced the declaration as a “coup.”
The Brotherhood called the interim charter “null and unconstitutional,” setting itself on a collision course with the military. The presidential election had deeply polarized Egyptians, between those who objected to the Brotherhood’s Islamist agenda and others who fear a return to the old regime under Shafiq. The new president will inherit a struggling economy, deteriorating security and the challenge of uniting a nation divided by the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011.