Judge helped Egypt’s military to cement power

The New York Times reports: Even as they promised to hand authority to elected leaders, Egypt’s ruling generals were planning with one of the nation’s top judges to preserve their political power and block the rise of the Islamists, the judge said.

Tahani el-Gebali, deputy president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, said she advised the generals not to cede authority to civilians until a Constitution was written. The Supreme Court then issued a decision that allowed the military to dissolve the first fairly elected Parliament in Egypt’s history and assure that the generals could oversee drafting of a Constitution.

The behind-the-scenes discussions, never publicly disclosed, shed new light on what some have called a judicial coup. From the moment the military seized control from President Hosni Mubarak, the generals “certainly” never intended to relinquish authority before supervising a new Constitution, Judge Gebali said.

The military council’s plan to cede authority was premised on first establishing the Constitution, the judge said, so the generals “knew who they were handing power to and on what basis. That was the point.”

When the military first seized power, it positioned itself as a guardian of the peaceful revolution, a force that was aimed at helping achieve the goals of a democratic Egypt. Demonstrators in Tahrir Square chanted that the people and the military were one, and there were promises of a quick transition to civilian control.

But the evidence since then has piled up demonstrating that the military had never intended to fully submit to democratically elected authority.

Now as Egypt’s new, popularly elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, tries to fashion a role for himself as head of state, he is facing a military council that retains virtually all executive and legislative authority. The generals have again pledged to transfer power after a new Parliament is elected and a Constitution drafted. [Continue reading…]

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