Shashank Joshi writes: This week, Egypt exploded for one simple reason: its army crossed the line. The Egyptian military, buoyed by its apparent role as saviour of the revolution, judged that it could manipulate the country’s democratic transition to keep its privileges intact. It was wrong.
Over the last ten months, Egypt’s ruling body, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), has re-imposed martial law, assaulted journalists, imprisoned people without charge and with impunity, and sharply curtailed rights of assembly and freedom of expression. Then, early this month, the government went one step too far: it released a set of “supra-constitutional principles” that would have imposed tight limits on the scope of Egypt’s new constitution.
Those principles accorded the military the status of “protector of constitutional legitimacy”, which was – quite reasonably – interpreted as a “right to launch coups”. SCAF was to be given the exclusive right to scrutinize its own budget, the right to manage “all the affairs of the armed forces” without accountability to elected legislators, and a veto over any laws relating to the army.
In short, SCAF, led by the increasingly mistrusted Field Marshal Tantawi, wants to create a political model resembling the Turkey of the 1980s or Pakistan of today – an eviscerated democracy with no control over its national security policy, weighed down by a bloated and self-serving military-industrial apparatus.