Jun 14, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from The Telegraph: Egypt’s military accused of ‘complete coup’ after supreme court ruling
Egypt’s military-led establishment was accused last night of staging a “complete coup” after the country’s supreme court ordered that parliament should be dissolved and its power handed back to the army council.
The Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that a third of the country’s new MPs, winners in the first fully free parliamentary election in Egypt’s history, had stood illegally.
Its head, Farouk Sultan, said this effectively meant parliament would have to be dissolved, with the whole vote having to be rerun at an unspecified time in the future.
The ruling, which means power will remain in the hands of the generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), was bitterly condemned.
The activists who led last year’s revolution to overthrow the former president Hosni Mubarak and the Islamists whose domination of parliament was spectacularly brought to an end accused the military of using the court as a proxy to preserve the hold of the ousted leader’s authoritarian regime.
In a separate ruling, the court also allowed an appeal by Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak-era general and former prime minister, against a parliamentary decree that would have banned him from taking part in the presidential election run-off vote due this Sunday.
Los Angeles Times: CAIRO — The battle between Egypt’s military leaders and the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood over the country’s political fate dramatically sharpened when the nation’s constitutional court dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament while upholding the right of an ally of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak to remain on this weekend’s presidential election ballot.
The decisions by the Supreme Constitutional Court on Thursday strengthened the army’s hand and tipped the nation into disarray two days before the presidential runoff begins. They are a setback for the Brotherhood, which controlled nearly half of parliament and expected to expand its power if its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, defeated Ahmed Shafik, the last prime minister to serve Mubarak, in voting that concludes Sunday.
The court rulings strike at the core of Egypt’s long, often bloody struggle over what ideology will govern the Arab world’s most populous nation. After enduring years of persecution and arrests, the Brotherhood, the country’s most potent opposition under Mubarak, rose to prominence and closed in on its goal of imposing political Islam with its strong showing in May’s first round of voting. But the nation’s interim rulers — many of them army generals appointed by Mubarak — appear loath to bow to a new era that could compromise their authority.
Activists characterized the rulings as a maneuver by the military to weaken the Brotherhood ahead of the army’s promise to hand power to a civilian government by July. Some fear that a victory by Shafik, a retired air force general, would cement the military’s grip and upend the demands for democratic change that fueled the uprising last year that brought down Mubarak, Egypt’s autocratic leader for three decades.
“All this equals a complete coup d’etat through which the military council is writing off the most noble stage in the nation’s history,” Mohamed Beltagy, a member of parliament with the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, said on his Facebook page. “This is the Egypt which Shafik and the military council desire.”
It’s not clear what effect the rulings will have on the presidential election and the struggle to draft a constitution. Activist groups have grudgingly announced their backing of Morsi in recent days, support that could grow in the wake of the court decisions. The Brotherhood did not say exactly how it would respond to the rulings, a signal that perhaps Morsi and the army may have reached a power-sharing deal.
“We believe it’s a political situation, not a constitutional one,” Dina Zakaria, co-founder of the group’s Foreign Relations Committee, told the Ahram Online news website. “The counterrevolution is trying to revive the old regime and will not accept civilian rule.”
The army’s hold on the country has increased in recent months while support for the Brotherhood has slackened. Many Egyptians, rich and poor, have been anxious over ongoing unrest and have looked to the generals and Shafik to stem crime and economic downturn. Despite Morsi’s making it to the runoff election, the Brotherhood’s image has been damaged by its broken political promises — including a vow that it would not field a presidential candidate — and suggestions that it is more politically opportunistic than committed to fulfilling the ideals of the revolution.
This could dampen turnout for anti-military protests planned for Friday.
Shafik, prime minister during the bloodiest days of last year’s rebellion, has the military, state institutions and old guard businessmen behind him. Such backing without an elected legislative balance could, if he wins, lead to despotic rule, say activists, including Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
“The election of a president in the absence of a constitution and a parliament is the election of a president with powers that not even the most entrenched dictatorships have known,” ElBaradei said.
The court’s decision on Shafik was not surprising. The judges were appointed by Mubarak and the law passed by parliament to prohibit former top government officials from running for president was widely regarded as unconstitutional. The law was supported by activists and the Brotherhood as a last chance to keep remnants of the old guard at bay and revive a revolution that inspired the Arab world.
Without a sitting parliament, the new president will be likely to influence the drafting of a constitution and legislative elections. That is almost certainly true if Shafik wins but less so if Morsi does. It’s not clear how and when new elections would occur. That will be determined by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of the military council.
Shafik termed the rulings a vindication: “The age of settling accounts is over and gone,” he said at a news conference. “The age of using the law and the country’s institutions against any individual is over.”
Facebook pages and Twitter accounts lighted up with accusations that the military was crafting a government takeover and hijacking the drafting of a constitution. Hundreds of protesters, surrounded by a huge contingent of police and soldiers, stood outside the court before the rulings, chanting, “Shafik, you scum, the revolution will continue.”
The ruling on parliament was blunt and sobering: “The makeup of the entire chamber is illegal and, consequently, it does not legally stand,” it said.
The move immediately dissolved the body and means new elections for all 498 lawmakers. The court found that one-third of the chamber’s seats in a multistage election that began in November and ended in January should have been reserved for independents. Many of the seats were won by candidates connected to parties, including the Brotherhood and secular movements.
Some legal experts had expected that the seats in question would be put up for new election, but were startled that the court invalidated what was Egypt’s first free parliamentary ballot since the 1950s. The results gave the Islamists erratic control as they struggled with economic issues and were kept contained by the army. A parliamentary call for the military-backed interim government to step down was quickly discounted by the generals.
The army was once revered by activists and political parties, but over the last 16 months it has been accused of torture and other civil rights violations, including trying about 12,000 civilians in military tribunals. On Wednesday, the Justice Ministry, expecting unrest ahead of the court rulings and presidential runoff, granted the military new powers for detaining civilians and keeping order.
A desire for law and order and a fear of Islamic influence on public policy foreshadowed the court’s decisions, and it’s now uncertain whether the Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Islamic Salafis, who together controlled nearly 70% of parliament, can repeat their strong showing. The prospect of a viable counterweight to the military has further diminished because young activists have failed to turn their revolutionary zeal into a galvanizing political vision.
The court actions were “a conflict between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, and today the Muslim Brotherhood received a knockout,” said Ahmed Helmy, a hotel worker. “They might receive a harder [knockout] after the elections.”
Others blamed an untenable mix of egos and power grabs on all sides. Azza Soliman, director of the Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, said she had long been suspicious of the military but that her reservations about the Brotherhood had also grown over its recent attempts to dominate the 100-member panel charged with writing a constitution. Its stance has delayed the document for months and allowed the military to exert more pressure.
“People like me who used to, regardless of anything, defend the Brotherhood and say they protected us during the revolution now see them as agents,” she said. “If we blame the military first for aborting the revolution, then the Brotherhood comes second.”
By nightfall, Egyptians were weary and, in a sign of how dispirited many have become, there were no large surges of crowds into Tahrir Square.
“Egypt just witnessed the smoothest military coup,” Hossam Bahgat, head of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said on his Twitter account. “We’d be outraged if we weren’t so exhausted.”