Egypt's generals make a show of power
Jun 17, 2012 / 2:03 pm
As Egyptians voted in a second day of elections for a successor to Hosni Mubarak, the ruling military issued an interim constitution Sunday defining the new president's authorities, a move that sharpened the confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood and showed how the generals will maintain the lion's share of power no matter who wins.
With parliament dissolved and martial law effectively in force, the generals granted themselves considerable authorities. They will be the de facto lawmakers, control the budget and will control who writes the permanent constitution that will define the country's future.
A significant question from the Saturday-Sunday runoff will be how their relationship will be with the new president.
Ahmad Shafiq, who was Mubarak's last prime minister and is a former air force commander, is seen as the generals' favourite in the contest and would likely work closely with them. So closely that his opponents fear the result will be a continuation of the military-backed, authoritarian police state that Mubarak ran for nearly 29 years.
A victory by his opponent, the conservative Islamist Mohammed Morsi, could translate into a rockier tussle for spheres of power between his Muslim Brotherhood and the military. The Brotherhood has reached accomodations with the generals at times over the past 16 months since Mubarak's fall, as it reached deals with Mubarak's regime itself.
But the group took a more defiant tone with the military Sunday in an apparent bid to rally the public to its side in the last hours of voting after two days of seemingly tepid turnout. It warned of protests if Shafiq wins, heightening worries that each side will reject a victory by the other.
It rejected last week's order by the Supreme constitutional Court dissolving parliament, where they were the largest party, as a "coup against the entire democratic process." It also rejected the military's right to declare an interim constitution and vowed that an assembly created by parliament last week before its dissolution will write the new charter, not one picked by the generals.
The race has already been deeply polarizing. Critics of Shafiq, an admirer and longtime friend of Mubarak, see him as an extension of the old regime that millions sought to uproot when they staged a stunning uprising that toppled Mubarak 16 months ago.
Morsi's opponents, in turn, fear that if he wins, the Brotherhood will take over the nation and turn it into an Islamic state, curbing freedoms and consigning minority Christians and women to second-class citizens.
Many Egyptians spoke of a potential military backlash against the Brotherhood, citing 1954 when young army officers who seized power two years earlier outlawed the group, jailing its leaders and thousands of its members. The Brotherhood remained outlawed until 2011.
AP correspondent Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report.
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