Monday, August 13, 2012

Morsi and the Generals

The configuration of power in Egypt shifted over the weekend as President Muhammad Morsi replaced the leadership of the SCAF:
"In a surprise move on Sunday, Morsi retired the powerful defence minister, Field Marshal Tantawi, 76, and armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan, and scrapped a constitutional document that gave the military legislative and other powers...
"Morsi also amended the interim constitution to deny the military any role in public policy-making, the budget and legislation, and the right to pick a constituent assembly drafting a permanent constitution for post-Mubarak Egypt...
"Tantawi, who had served as Mubarak's defence minister for two decades, was replaced by replaced by Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, a member of the SCAF."
This move was clearly enabled by divisions within the SCAF over a looming succession to the elderly Tantawi and possibly courses of action.  A united military would have insisted on its own autonomy from presidential oversight, and you would not have seen people take up the old jobs.  The SCAF also remains powerful through its economic empire, which allows it to dispense a great deal of patronage throughout the system.

This is not to deny, however, that a great deal of power is now concentrated in the person of Muhammad Morsi.  The country needs a parliament, quickly, and I would prefer it be at least partially newly elected.  Such a parliament is the proper legal forum for deciding on a new constitutional assembly.  In the past, I've read the signs as suggesting that Egyptians voted for the Muslim Brotherhood to manage a transition, not imprint the country with its specific agenda, and I hope they respect that.



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