While there have been concerns that Egypt’s ruling military council, SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces), would rig the election in their favor, they appear to have opted for a more oppressive means to secure their power. After the double blow of the High Constitutional Court, which dissolved parliament and permitted Ahmed Shafiq to continue his candidacy for president, SCAF clamped down, bolstering their own power and limiting that of the newly-elected president, who will officially be announced on Thursday.
I stated previously that SCAF and the military in general has no intention in relinquishing power. While I previously hypothesized that they would rig the election to ensure Shafiq’s dominance, it seems SCAF is going to even more extreme lengths to maintain their power. After the conclusion of the second day of voting in the presidential run-off, SCAF announced several new amendments concerning the intermediary constitutional declaration. The rhetoric is flying about which presidential candidate actually emerged victorious in the weekend’s run-off, but these amendments declare the president almost irrelevant.
The amendments include making the president unable to declare war unless SCAF first approves the declaration; giving SCAF the authority on appointing, extending and determining military leadership, with the head of SCAF (Moahmed Tantawi) as the commander-in-chief of the military and minister of defense (though a caveat was included to stipulate that this is until a new constitution is drafted, though even that is debatable); and giving SCAF control of the constituent assembly tasked with writing the new constitution.
It can be argued that in the wake of Morsi's unofficial presidential win, SCAF was trying to safeguard the Camp David Accords and maintain peace between Egypt and its neighbor Israel. It's true that the Muslim Brotherhood has occasionally threatened the goal of the Accords. But this magnanimous safeguarding of regional peace would be a false interpretation of SCAF's motivation. As former president Jimmy Carter expressed during his Cairo address last month, the candidates are aware of the risks of reneging on the Camp David Accords and realize that Egypt is in no position to start a war.
Even if one is to hope that SCAF is acting in the best interest of regional security, this does nothing to quell the fears concerning the supremacy of SCAF in the face of their promise to hand over government to civilian rule on June 30. SCAF have repeatedly announced that they have no desire to rule the political sphere and are awaiting the day that they can return to focusing on national security issues.
Early on Monday, there were two announcements concerning the future state of Egypt: he first announcement was that SCAF intends to relinquish rule to the newly elected president, but the second announcement was that the new president will only serve as an intermediary head of state until the constitution is written and approved and a new parliament is elected. This latter point could be seen as self-serving as they try to strengthen candidates of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) or other pro-military regime, but it could also serve to quell the discontent of the populous as the reality of the future is becoming more clear with the results of the presidential elections.
The situation is not as hopeless, however, as some may believe. The abstention of millions of eligible Egyptians in the second round of voting signals a refusal to placate the system. The regular and continued presence, and vocal participation in protest of the political system indicates that the people are not willing to return to old ways. Whatever SCAF intends, it cannot be assumed that it will be implemented as planned or that the people will simply bow out of the picture and grant SCAF carte blanche.