From Arab Spring to military dictatorship

The New York Times reports: The Muslim Brotherhood on Monday projected its candidate as the winner of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election, hours after the ruling military council issued an interim constitution granting itself broad power over the future government, all but eliminating the president’s authority in an apparent effort to guard against a victory by the Islamist candidate.

The military’s new charter is the latest in a series of swift steps that the generals have taken to tighten their grasp on power just at the moment when they had promised to hand over to elected civilians the authority that they assumed on the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last year. Their charter gives them control of all laws and the national budget, immunity from any oversight, and the power to veto a declaration of war.

After dissolving the Brotherhood-led Parliament elected four months ago, and locking out its lawmakers, the generals on Sunday night also seized control of the process of writing a permanent constitution. State news media reported that the generals had picked a 100-member panel to draft it.

“The new constitutional declaration completed Egypt’s official transformation into a military dictatorship,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, wrote in an online commentary. Under the military’s charter, the president appeared to be reduced to a powerless figurehead.

Though final results are not available yet, by early Monday morning the Brotherhood was projecting its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, the winner, and its leaders escalated their defiance. After meeting with Gen. Sami Hafez Enan of the military council, the Brotherhood-affiliated speaker of Parliament, Saad el-Katatni, declared that the military had no authority to dissolve the Parliament or write a constitution. He said that a separate 100-member panel picked by the Parliament would begin meeting within hours to write up its own constitution — raising the prospect of competing assemblies. And Saad El Hussainy, leader of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary bloc, said that the group’s lawmakers would show up at Parliament as scheduled on Tuesday morning. The generals having stationed military and riot police to keep the lawmakers out, potentially setting the stage for new clashes in the streets.

The military’s moves were “a new episode of a complete military coup against the revolution and the popular will,” said Mohamed El Beltagy, a leading Brotherhood lawmaker, said in a statement online. [Continue reading…]

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