Showing posts tagged as "scaf"

Showing posts tagged scaf

26 Jun
What Morsy Must Do to Avoid Being Egypt’s President in Name Only | TIME
By Tony Karon
Egypt marked a milestone on Sunday by announcing the election of Mohamed Morsy as its first civilian president — but it’s a very early milestone on what remains a long, perilous journey toward democracy. Morsy was democratically elected and will enjoy the symbolic trappings of the presidency — he began working in the presidential palace on Monday — but he won’t have many of the powers typically associated with the office. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) essentially switched the chairs around, stripping Morsy of most of the key prerogatives of executive power enjoyed by his predecessors, leaving him with the title of president but powers more typically enjoyed by a prime minister in a presidential system. The democratically elected presidency does, however, enjoy unprecedented legitimacy, and therefore becomes a perch from which Morsy can press for a more thorough democratic transition — but only if he corrects some of the political mistakes made by the Muslim Brotherhood since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.
FULL ARTICLE (TIME)
Photo: Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images

What Morsy Must Do to Avoid Being Egypt’s President in Name Only | TIME

By Tony Karon

Egypt marked a milestone on Sunday by announcing the election of Mohamed Morsy as its first civilian president — but it’s a very early milestone on what remains a long, perilous journey toward democracy. Morsy was democratically elected and will enjoy the symbolic trappings of the presidency — he began working in the presidential palace on Monday — but he won’t have many of the powers typically associated with the office. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) essentially switched the chairs around, stripping Morsy of most of the key prerogatives of executive power enjoyed by his predecessors, leaving him with the title of president but powers more typically enjoyed by a prime minister in a presidential system. The democratically elected presidency does, however, enjoy unprecedented legitimacy, and therefore becomes a perch from which Morsy can press for a more thorough democratic transition — but only if he corrects some of the political mistakes made by the Muslim Brotherhood since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

FULL ARTICLE (TIME)

Photo: Daniel Berehulak/ Getty Images

Briefing: The Egyptian revolution undone? | IRIN
DUBAI, 25 June 2012 (IRIN) - Mohamad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has been declared the official winner of the first free Egyptian presidential elections. 
Cheers broke out both inside the briefing room and on Cairo’s Tahrir Square where protesters had been gathered since 22 June to protest what many had seen as a recent power grab by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 
The official results come amid a period of political uncertainty in Egypt and many observers see troubles ahead for the democratic transition. 
How did the elections go? 
The Carter Center - among the few foreign observer missions in the country - said in a statement that most of the polling process was relatively free and fair. However, access to the polling and especially to the tabulation process was quite limited or completely forbidden; and local observers faced severe restrictions. Similar results were released by the One World Centre (Markaz al-Alam al-Wahid), a local Egyptian NGO monitoring the elections. 
FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)
Photo: Jonathan Rashad/Flickr

Briefing: The Egyptian revolution undone? | IRIN

DUBAI, 25 June 2012 (IRIN) - Mohamad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has been declared the official winner of the first free Egyptian presidential elections. 

Cheers broke out both inside the briefing room and on Cairo’s Tahrir Square where protesters had been gathered since 22 June to protest what many had seen as a recent power grab by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). 

The official results come amid a period of political uncertainty in Egypt and many observers see troubles ahead for the democratic transition. 

How did the elections go? 

The Carter Center - among the few foreign observer missions in the country - said in a statement that most of the polling process was relatively free and fair. However, access to the polling and especially to the tabulation process was quite limited or completely forbidden; and local observers faced severe restrictions. Similar results were released by the One World Centre (Markaz al-Alam al-Wahid), a local Egyptian NGO monitoring the elections. 

FULL ARTICLE (IRIN)

Photo: Jonathan Rashad/Flickr

25 Jun
Media Release: Egypt
Cairo/Brussels  |   25 Jun 2012

Celebrated by millions of Egyptians, yesterday’s announcement that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, has won the presidential election undoubtedly marks a milestone in the country’s history.  Still, this event does little to resolve the fundamental problems that existed beforehand: eighteen months after the uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the political system is paralysed, no institutions enjoy the required legitimacy or credibility to break the logjam, all political actors have been discredited to varying degrees, and societal polarisation has reached new heights.  To salvage the transition and lay the foundation for a more stable polity, political actors need to do today what they ought to have done in February 2011: seek agreement on a set of principles that would respect all sides’ vital interests while ensuring a peaceful democratic transition.
The deteriorating situation is the culmination of a mismanaged process that, from the very beginning, has lacked clear direction and agreed rules of the game. Political players — including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the Muslim Brotherhood and more liberal, secular forces — are proceeding in the dark, unaccustomed to the new environment, distrustful of one another and quick to resort to extra-institutional means, whether issuance of arbitrary decisions or street politics, to bolster their respective positions.
The result is clear for all to see.  With the recent SCAF measures — restoring a form of martial law that allows the military to arrest civilians without judicial warrant; establishing a military-dominated National Defence Council; and promulgating a Supplementary Constitutional Declaration that enlarges its executive powers, awards it legislative authority and grants it considerable latitude over the drafting of a new constitution — and the Supreme Constitutional Court’s (SCC) invalidation of parliamentary elections, the transition risks coming full circle. 
The outcome of the three rounds of voting, the first democratic ballots in modern Egyptian history, has been nullified or seriously questioned.   The constitutional changes have in effect repealed the March 2011 constitutional referendum, both substantively and procedurally.  The parliamentary dissolution has erased the legislative elections in which 30 million participated.  And the presidential election was mired in controversy both before it was held (disputes over the disqualification of some candidates and qualification of others) and after (competing claims of victory, accompanied by charges of fraud and capped by delays in the announcement of the result).  In this context, serious questions remain as to whether the promised transfer of power from the military to elected civilian authorities will occur by the end of June.
For now, the prospect remains of duelling constitutional principles with no constitution; duelling understandings of how to create the constituent assembly; duelling legislative bodies (the dissolved parliament and the SCAF); duelling conceptions of SCAF prerogatives (eg, whether it can dissolve parliament or issue constitutional rules); duelling perceptions of executive authority; duelling mass demonstrations setting one Egypt against the other; and no agreed mechanism or legitimate arbiter to settle these disputes.  Divisions reach deeper, pitting army against civilians, Islamists against secularists and Muslims against Coptic Christians.  Add an economic crisis (60 per cent decline in foreign currency reserves, massive budget deficit, soaring unemployment, stagflation, near junk-status credit rating) that cannot be tackled in the absence of political stability and consensus and this is a recipe for persisting conflict and a possible trigger to escalating violence.
The behaviour of the various parties to date hardly inspires confidence.  Viewed by many as responsible for brutal violence against protesters, as seeking to protect its interests by reviving the old regime’s networks and as claiming for itself the roles of judge and party, the SCAF has squandered much of its legitimacy.   Yet, it continues to believe otherwise, attempting to muscle through critical political decisions by relying on superior force and invoking its assumed greater knowledge of what is best for the country. Little wonder that many in Egypt suspect it of conducting a soft coup.
For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood has appeared to place all its bets on its electoral strength, shunning serious efforts to reassure key constituencies. It has antagonised the military, turned its back on the revolutionary movement, failed to reach out to secular forces, made insufficient gestures toward the Coptic Christian minority, threatened supporters of the old regime and repeatedly reneged on its pledges. In recent days, it has taken some steps to extend a hand to others in the opposition but far more is needed after eighteen months of snubbing them.  Overall, although it enjoys formal democratic legitimacy, the Brotherhood has rallied against itself too broad and too determined a section of society for electoral mathematics alone to be decisive. 
As for the revolutionary movement, disdainful of politics yet facing overwhelming popular fatigue at the prospect of renewed protests, it is distrustful of the SCAF but fearful of the Islamists.  This makes its members at times flirt with the idea of sacrificing their democratic principles on the altar of their secular faith — thus turning them into easy prey for the military’s divide-and-conquer tactics, which seek to set them against the Islamists so that the two faces of the opposition do not unite behind an expeditious transition.  All of which threatens to marginalize the revolutionary movement and render it increasingly irrelevant.
There is little mystery about the better way forward.  Key political actors need to negotiate a set of understandings governing the transition, including a clear timetable, allocation of interim powers, constitution-drafting principles and core interests that the final document must protect. Movement should be swift.  Morsi is due to be sworn in on 1 July and, already, crises loom: over whether parliament will convene and whether the president will take his oath before parliament (consistent with the March 2011 constitutional amendments approved by referendum) or before the Supreme Constitutional Court (consistent with the SCAF’s supplementary principles).  Suggested ideas for these understandings include:


Formation by president-elect Morsi of a national unity government, led by a credible independent figure, and selection of a vice president reflecting Egypt’s ideological and sectarian diversity;
the SCAF’s agreement not to dissolve the existing constituent assembly and name another; in return, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists would form a more broadly representative body, substituting respected independents and legal experts for some Islamists;
agreement to rerun the one third of parliamentary seats elected via individual candidacies that the SCC ruled unconstitutional, as opposed to dissolving the entire parliament;
cancellation of the justice ministry decree enabling the military to arrest and detain civilians without a warrant;
annulment of those provisions in the supplementary constitutional declaration that contradict full transfer of power to civilians and would usurp powers of the president and legislature;
the SCAF’s commitment to fully disengage from the political arena once the constitution has been written and ratified through a popular referendum; and
the Muslim Brotherhood’s agreement to seek its legalisation and make its finances fully transparent.
Responsibility lies squarely with the SCAF and the Brotherhood.  By respecting the wishes of a majority of Egyptians with regard to the presidential elections, the military has shown that it can act wisely.  But it should not view this as a concession giving it a free hand to delay a full transition.   Morsi’s victory speech aimed at being reassuring and consensual, but the Islamists must do far more and resist the temptation of triumphalism that has marked virtually all of their prior successes.
Throughout this process, the international community — and notably the West — has been caught between the need to support a democratic transition and the enormous suspicions that continue to taint its actions due to a chequered history of excessive interference and support for authoritarian rule.  Achieving a proper balance between pressuring the SCAF without triggering widespread hostility will not be easy, especially at a time of heightened xenophobia and mistrust of anything coming from the outside.
At a minimum, the international community should express a strong commitment to helping the economy through what inevitably will be a trying period once it is clear the country is on a path to a genuine democratic transition.  Assistance would include the International Monetary Fund’s substantial soft loan package; financial aid from various countries; and encouragement of foreign direct investment.  At the same time, key outside actors ought to unambiguously condemn attempts to undermine democratically-elected civilian institutions.  
Considering the stakes, the historical rupture embodied in the uprising and the fears of so many core constituencies, what is most surprising, arguably, is that there has not been more violence — that Egyptians, by and large, have engaged in spirited debate, taken to the streets peacefully and participated in electoral politics.  Morsi’s victory, though a bitter disappointment to a large number of Egyptians, is a signal of a continued transition. Yet all this is enormously fragile, a brittle reality at the mercy of a single significant misstep.  To right the course of this perilous transition will require different and wiser steering from all who, for the past eighteen months, have had a hand in it.
FULL MEDIA RELEASE
Photo: Gigi Ibrahim/ Flickr

Media Release: Egypt

Cairo/Brussels  |   25 Jun 2012

Celebrated by millions of Egyptians, yesterday’s announcement that Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, has won the presidential election undoubtedly marks a milestone in the country’s history.  Still, this event does little to resolve the fundamental problems that existed beforehand: eighteen months after the uprising that led to President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the political system is paralysed, no institutions enjoy the required legitimacy or credibility to break the logjam, all political actors have been discredited to varying degrees, and societal polarisation has reached new heights.  To salvage the transition and lay the foundation for a more stable polity, political actors need to do today what they ought to have done in February 2011: seek agreement on a set of principles that would respect all sides’ vital interests while ensuring a peaceful democratic transition.

The deteriorating situation is the culmination of a mismanaged process that, from the very beginning, has lacked clear direction and agreed rules of the game. Political players — including the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the Muslim Brotherhood and more liberal, secular forces — are proceeding in the dark, unaccustomed to the new environment, distrustful of one another and quick to resort to extra-institutional means, whether issuance of arbitrary decisions or street politics, to bolster their respective positions.

The result is clear for all to see.  With the recent SCAF measures — restoring a form of martial law that allows the military to arrest civilians without judicial warrant; establishing a military-dominated National Defence Council; and promulgating a Supplementary Constitutional Declaration that enlarges its executive powers, awards it legislative authority and grants it considerable latitude over the drafting of a new constitution — and the Supreme Constitutional Court’s (SCC) invalidation of parliamentary elections, the transition risks coming full circle. 

The outcome of the three rounds of voting, the first democratic ballots in modern Egyptian history, has been nullified or seriously questioned.   The constitutional changes have in effect repealed the March 2011 constitutional referendum, both substantively and procedurally.  The parliamentary dissolution has erased the legislative elections in which 30 million participated.  And the presidential election was mired in controversy both before it was held (disputes over the disqualification of some candidates and qualification of others) and after (competing claims of victory, accompanied by charges of fraud and capped by delays in the announcement of the result).  In this context, serious questions remain as to whether the promised transfer of power from the military to elected civilian authorities will occur by the end of June.

For now, the prospect remains of duelling constitutional principles with no constitution; duelling understandings of how to create the constituent assembly; duelling legislative bodies (the dissolved parliament and the SCAF); duelling conceptions of SCAF prerogatives (eg, whether it can dissolve parliament or issue constitutional rules); duelling perceptions of executive authority; duelling mass demonstrations setting one Egypt against the other; and no agreed mechanism or legitimate arbiter to settle these disputes.  Divisions reach deeper, pitting army against civilians, Islamists against secularists and Muslims against Coptic Christians.  Add an economic crisis (60 per cent decline in foreign currency reserves, massive budget deficit, soaring unemployment, stagflation, near junk-status credit rating) that cannot be tackled in the absence of political stability and consensus and this is a recipe for persisting conflict and a possible trigger to escalating violence.

The behaviour of the various parties to date hardly inspires confidence.  Viewed by many as responsible for brutal violence against protesters, as seeking to protect its interests by reviving the old regime’s networks and as claiming for itself the roles of judge and party, the SCAF has squandered much of its legitimacy.   Yet, it continues to believe otherwise, attempting to muscle through critical political decisions by relying on superior force and invoking its assumed greater knowledge of what is best for the country. Little wonder that many in Egypt suspect it of conducting a soft coup.

For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood has appeared to place all its bets on its electoral strength, shunning serious efforts to reassure key constituencies. It has antagonised the military, turned its back on the revolutionary movement, failed to reach out to secular forces, made insufficient gestures toward the Coptic Christian minority, threatened supporters of the old regime and repeatedly reneged on its pledges. In recent days, it has taken some steps to extend a hand to others in the opposition but far more is needed after eighteen months of snubbing them.  Overall, although it enjoys formal democratic legitimacy, the Brotherhood has rallied against itself too broad and too determined a section of society for electoral mathematics alone to be decisive. 

As for the revolutionary movement, disdainful of politics yet facing overwhelming popular fatigue at the prospect of renewed protests, it is distrustful of the SCAF but fearful of the Islamists.  This makes its members at times flirt with the idea of sacrificing their democratic principles on the altar of their secular faith — thus turning them into easy prey for the military’s divide-and-conquer tactics, which seek to set them against the Islamists so that the two faces of the opposition do not unite behind an expeditious transition.  All of which threatens to marginalize the revolutionary movement and render it increasingly irrelevant.

There is little mystery about the better way forward.  Key political actors need to negotiate a set of understandings governing the transition, including a clear timetable, allocation of interim powers, constitution-drafting principles and core interests that the final document must protect. Movement should be swift.  Morsi is due to be sworn in on 1 July and, already, crises loom: over whether parliament will convene and whether the president will take his oath before parliament (consistent with the March 2011 constitutional amendments approved by referendum) or before the Supreme Constitutional Court (consistent with the SCAF’s supplementary principles).  Suggested ideas for these understandings include:

  • Formation by president-elect Morsi of a national unity government, led by a credible independent figure, and selection of a vice president reflecting Egypt’s ideological and sectarian diversity;
  • the SCAF’s agreement not to dissolve the existing constituent assembly and name another; in return, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists would form a more broadly representative body, substituting respected independents and legal experts for some Islamists;
  • agreement to rerun the one third of parliamentary seats elected via individual candidacies that the SCC ruled unconstitutional, as opposed to dissolving the entire parliament;
  • cancellation of the justice ministry decree enabling the military to arrest and detain civilians without a warrant;
  • annulment of those provisions in the supplementary constitutional declaration that contradict full transfer of power to civilians and would usurp powers of the president and legislature;
  • the SCAF’s commitment to fully disengage from the political arena once the constitution has been written and ratified through a popular referendum; and
  • the Muslim Brotherhood’s agreement to seek its legalisation and make its finances fully transparent.

Responsibility lies squarely with the SCAF and the Brotherhood.  By respecting the wishes of a majority of Egyptians with regard to the presidential elections, the military has shown that it can act wisely.  But it should not view this as a concession giving it a free hand to delay a full transition.   Morsi’s victory speech aimed at being reassuring and consensual, but the Islamists must do far more and resist the temptation of triumphalism that has marked virtually all of their prior successes.

Throughout this process, the international community — and notably the West — has been caught between the need to support a democratic transition and the enormous suspicions that continue to taint its actions due to a chequered history of excessive interference and support for authoritarian rule.  Achieving a proper balance between pressuring the SCAF without triggering widespread hostility will not be easy, especially at a time of heightened xenophobia and mistrust of anything coming from the outside.

At a minimum, the international community should express a strong commitment to helping the economy through what inevitably will be a trying period once it is clear the country is on a path to a genuine democratic transition.  Assistance would include the International Monetary Fund’s substantial soft loan package; financial aid from various countries; and encouragement of foreign direct investment.  At the same time, key outside actors ought to unambiguously condemn attempts to undermine democratically-elected civilian institutions.  

Considering the stakes, the historical rupture embodied in the uprising and the fears of so many core constituencies, what is most surprising, arguably, is that there has not been more violence — that Egyptians, by and large, have engaged in spirited debate, taken to the streets peacefully and participated in electoral politics.  Morsi’s victory, though a bitter disappointment to a large number of Egyptians, is a signal of a continued transition. Yet all this is enormously fragile, a brittle reality at the mercy of a single significant misstep.  To right the course of this perilous transition will require different and wiser steering from all who, for the past eighteen months, have had a hand in it.

FULL MEDIA RELEASE

Photo: Gigi Ibrahim/ Flickr

21 May
Egyptian army’s pledges of retreat could be an illusion: Analysts | Al Arabiya
Egypt’s ruling military has promised a return to the barracks once a new president is elected, but the army’s formidable political and economic weight means that such a withdrawal could be an illusion, analysts say.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in charge of the country since a popular uprising ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak, has repeatedly pledged to hand over the keys of the country by the end of June after landmark presidential polls.
The power transfer will symbolize the end of a turbulent transition period marked by violent protests, with the army accused of orchestrating the violence, maintaining a repressive apparatus and holding on to its privileges.
But the powerful institution insists it has kept its promise to lead the country towards democratization, touting its ability to maintain a relative stability compared with other “Arab Spring” countries like Libya or Syria.
“The army is the only institution in the country that works. It still enjoys some popularity, it has real economic power while the police is unable to reorganize itself to maintain order,” said Tewfik Aclimandos, Egypt specialist at the University Paris I.
“It has the ability to remain an important political actor for many more years,” he said.
For Hassan Nafea, a leading Egyptian political columnist, “the role of the army will depend very much on the president to be elected.”
If he comes from the old regime such as the ex-foreign minister and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, or Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, “the army will continue to play an important role, and there will be no reform regarding its role or its place.”
FULL ARTICLE (Al Arabiya)

Egyptian army’s pledges of retreat could be an illusion: Analysts | Al Arabiya

Egypt’s ruling military has promised a return to the barracks once a new president is elected, but the army’s formidable political and economic weight means that such a withdrawal could be an illusion, analysts say.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), in charge of the country since a popular uprising ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak, has repeatedly pledged to hand over the keys of the country by the end of June after landmark presidential polls.

The power transfer will symbolize the end of a turbulent transition period marked by violent protests, with the army accused of orchestrating the violence, maintaining a repressive apparatus and holding on to its privileges.

But the powerful institution insists it has kept its promise to lead the country towards democratization, touting its ability to maintain a relative stability compared with other “Arab Spring” countries like Libya or Syria.

“The army is the only institution in the country that works. It still enjoys some popularity, it has real economic power while the police is unable to reorganize itself to maintain order,” said Tewfik Aclimandos, Egypt specialist at the University Paris I.

“It has the ability to remain an important political actor for many more years,” he said.

For Hassan Nafea, a leading Egyptian political columnist, “the role of the army will depend very much on the president to be elected.”

If he comes from the old regime such as the ex-foreign minister and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, or Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, “the army will continue to play an important role, and there will be no reform regarding its role or its place.”

FULL ARTICLE (Al Arabiya)

International Herald Tribune | The Final Task for Egypt’s Brass
By Yasser M. El-Shimy
Egypt’s presidential election this week is shaping up as a high-stakes, winner-takes-all contest for power in the absence of clearly defined rules.
Questions remain as to who should draft a new constitution, what authority the new head of state might have, particularly in relation to the legislative branch, and what role the military might play in the burgeoning political system. With candidates from the revolutionary movement, Islamists and members of the old guard vying for leadership, the election could be one final opportunity for Egypt’s de facto ruler, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to help usher in a genuine and safe political transition.
The SCAF, a 20-member body of Egypt’s top military brass once headed by Hosni Mubarak, was initially hailed as a defender of the uprising, but its high-handed management of the transition and seemingly paradoxical decisions have eroded some of the goodwill it enjoyed in February of last year.
It finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. Historically, the SCAF has considered itself to be the only national actor with the legitimacy, ability and wisdom to protect the country from threats both foreign and domestic. But now it is being forced to respond to mounting demands for radical political changes from a mobilized protest movement and to the political rise of the long-persecuted Islamists.
These developments go against its conservative nature and deep attachment to stability and continuity. In a way, the military has been in charge of administering the very process that is chipping away at its nearly seven decades of political and economic prerogatives.
To be sure, the generals are not keen on governing, but with insecurity high, volatility in the Sinai and troubles in neighboring Gaza, Libya and Sudan, they are reluctant right now to trust an untested civilian leadership. Nor do they accept attempts to undermine their privileged status, which includes a budget largely outside of civilian control, virtual immunity from prosecution and important business ventures linked to key parts of the economy.
On top of that, despite being extremely shy of the public spotlight, the military does not want its influence to diminish, as demanded by the secular-minded protest movement or to see the balance of power shift to a single political party, especially an Islamist one.
The SCAF’s actions in recent months, however, have done little to help it achieve those goals. By playing Islamists off against secularists, and vice versa, it has alienated both. Now the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the SCAF appear entangled in a confrontation over the post-transition arrangements. Fearing that the junta will impose a strong presidential system and void Parliament of its power, the Brotherhood has thrown itself into campaigning, reneging on a pledge not to present a candidate. Neither wants the contest right now, but as the transition takes on a zero-sum-game quality, neither feels that it can back down.
It might not be too late. The generals urgently ought to do now what they should have done more than a year ago: talk to actors from across Egypt’s political spectrum — not just the Muslim Brothers, but also the ultraconservative Salafis and the liberal protest movement — to find a way of accommodating peacefully their diverse and competing goals and interests.
A way must be found to define the parameters of the country’s future political system; the powers of the presidency, the makeup of a committee to draft the new constitution and a basis for civil-military relations. Such fundamental issues determining Egypt’s political stability should not be left unaddressed.
More than ever, Cairo needs consensus-building in order to shake off the economic and political paralysis it has suffered during the 18-month-long transition, and move quickly to meet the salient expectations of those who took part in the Jan. 25 revolt, and the majority that struggles to secure basic necessities like food and health care.
The lead-up to the presidential election has been far from reassuring. For example, the candidate list was finalized less than a month before the voting, amid much controversy over the last-minute nomination (and disqualification) of the Muslim Brotherhood deputy general guide, Khairat el-Shater, as well as Mubarak’s director of the General Intelligence Services, Omar Suleiman.
If the SCAF can help outline exactly what is at stake in the election — by agreeing with most political parties on the relations of authority among the different branches of government, and ensuring that fundamental guarantees are in place to protect the various interests at play — it could help transform the election from a potentially volatile existential exercise into a manageable political one.
This may be the generals’ last chance to peacefully produce a balanced and democratic political system reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral prowess and the protest movement’s democratic aspirations, while protecting the interests so critical to the military. Ultimately, the SCAF should step aside, clearing the way to democratically elected civilian institutions; the trick is to make sure that happens in a safe, orderly and dignified manner.
Yasser M. el-Shimy is a Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group.
FULL ARTICLE (IHT)
Photo: UN Photos

International Herald Tribune | The Final Task for Egypt’s Brass

By Yasser M. El-Shimy

Egypt’s presidential election this week is shaping up as a high-stakes, winner-takes-all contest for power in the absence of clearly defined rules.

Questions remain as to who should draft a new constitution, what authority the new head of state might have, particularly in relation to the legislative branch, and what role the military might play in the burgeoning political system. With candidates from the revolutionary movement, Islamists and members of the old guard vying for leadership, the election could be one final opportunity for Egypt’s de facto ruler, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, to help usher in a genuine and safe political transition.

The SCAF, a 20-member body of Egypt’s top military brass once headed by Hosni Mubarak, was initially hailed as a defender of the uprising, but its high-handed management of the transition and seemingly paradoxical decisions have eroded some of the goodwill it enjoyed in February of last year.

It finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place. Historically, the SCAF has considered itself to be the only national actor with the legitimacy, ability and wisdom to protect the country from threats both foreign and domestic. But now it is being forced to respond to mounting demands for radical political changes from a mobilized protest movement and to the political rise of the long-persecuted Islamists.

These developments go against its conservative nature and deep attachment to stability and continuity. In a way, the military has been in charge of administering the very process that is chipping away at its nearly seven decades of political and economic prerogatives.

To be sure, the generals are not keen on governing, but with insecurity high, volatility in the Sinai and troubles in neighboring Gaza, Libya and Sudan, they are reluctant right now to trust an untested civilian leadership. Nor do they accept attempts to undermine their privileged status, which includes a budget largely outside of civilian control, virtual immunity from prosecution and important business ventures linked to key parts of the economy.

On top of that, despite being extremely shy of the public spotlight, the military does not want its influence to diminish, as demanded by the secular-minded protest movement or to see the balance of power shift to a single political party, especially an Islamist one.

The SCAF’s actions in recent months, however, have done little to help it achieve those goals. By playing Islamists off against secularists, and vice versa, it has alienated both. Now the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the SCAF appear entangled in a confrontation over the post-transition arrangements. Fearing that the junta will impose a strong presidential system and void Parliament of its power, the Brotherhood has thrown itself into campaigning, reneging on a pledge not to present a candidate. Neither wants the contest right now, but as the transition takes on a zero-sum-game quality, neither feels that it can back down.

It might not be too late. The generals urgently ought to do now what they should have done more than a year ago: talk to actors from across Egypt’s political spectrum — not just the Muslim Brothers, but also the ultraconservative Salafis and the liberal protest movement — to find a way of accommodating peacefully their diverse and competing goals and interests.

A way must be found to define the parameters of the country’s future political system; the powers of the presidency, the makeup of a committee to draft the new constitution and a basis for civil-military relations. Such fundamental issues determining Egypt’s political stability should not be left unaddressed.

More than ever, Cairo needs consensus-building in order to shake off the economic and political paralysis it has suffered during the 18-month-long transition, and move quickly to meet the salient expectations of those who took part in the Jan. 25 revolt, and the majority that struggles to secure basic necessities like food and health care.

The lead-up to the presidential election has been far from reassuring. For example, the candidate list was finalized less than a month before the voting, amid much controversy over the last-minute nomination (and disqualification) of the Muslim Brotherhood deputy general guide, Khairat el-Shater, as well as Mubarak’s director of the General Intelligence Services, Omar Suleiman.

If the SCAF can help outline exactly what is at stake in the election — by agreeing with most political parties on the relations of authority among the different branches of government, and ensuring that fundamental guarantees are in place to protect the various interests at play — it could help transform the election from a potentially volatile existential exercise into a manageable political one.

This may be the generals’ last chance to peacefully produce a balanced and democratic political system reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral prowess and the protest movement’s democratic aspirations, while protecting the interests so critical to the military. Ultimately, the SCAF should step aside, clearing the way to democratically elected civilian institutions; the trick is to make sure that happens in a safe, orderly and dignified manner.

Yasser M. el-Shimy is a Middle East analyst at the International Crisis Group.

FULL ARTICLE (IHT)

Photo: UN Photos

23 Nov

Conflict Risk Alert: Egypt: The Revolution Returns

Cairo/Brussels  |   23 Nov 2011

The brutal crackdown on demonstrators that has once again shaken Tahrir Square and unleashed protests across Egypt is tragic, yet it also offers a rare chance to get the transition process back on track precisely at the time when there was every indication it was set to derail.

The demonstrators’ message is clear: power must immediately devolve from the military to a credible, empowered civilian authority. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), persuaded it retains the support of a majority of the people, has tended to respond to pressure incrementally, giving in only after having resisted and then giving in some more. A far wiser course for the authorities and for the country as a whole would be to let the political parties fundamentally revisit the transitional process. Violence against protesters must come to an end, the security sector also needs to come under clear civilian rule, and those guilty of abuses should be brought to account. Anything short of that – tinkering with the process in an effort to calm things down or kicking crucial decisions down the road – is almost certain to confront the military with intense opposition in the near future, at a time when it could well be in a far weaker position to handle it.

The latest chapter in Egypt’s ongoing crisis began on 19 November, when Central Security Forces (CSF), in collaboration with the military police, stormed Tahrir Square in an attempt to forcefully clear a sit-in of dozens of people, most of whom had been injured during the 25 January uprising. The ensuing outburst reflects more than anger at the security services’ disproportionate response. It is the product, too, of accumulated frustrations and distrust that have come to shape the perceptions of virtually all political players and that the military, confident in the support it enjoys from ordinary Egyptians, chose to ignore.

The protesters have had good reason to worry about where the SCAF was taking the nation. Its actions since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February – refusing to offer a transparent timetable for the transition of power to elected civilian authorities; delaying presidential elections until as late as mid-2013; unilaterally assuming sweeping legislative and executive powers; and condoning continued resort to torture and other human rights violations – suggest at best incompetence and indecision, at worst a deliberate attempt to indefinitely hold on to power.

Moreover, since the SCAF took over, upwards of ten thousand civilians have been tried before military courts, many on politically-motivated grounds, and violent crackdowns on protests – most notably the 9 October Coptic demonstration at Maspiro – have resulted in dozens of civilian deaths and hundreds of injuries. During that period, the military leadership has oscillated between catering to Islamists and playing to secularist fears, all the while seeming intent to preserve or even expand the military’s political role and economic prerogatives.

All in all, the SCAF has done little to inspire confidence in its stewardship and much to instill fear that it was determined not to hand over genuine power to a truly democratic civilian authority.

Many Egyptians no doubt continue to hold the SCAF in high regard, and many blame economic hardships and enduring chaos on the protesters, with whom they have grown impatient. The SCAF has wagered on this sentiment, but its bet appears to have been shortsighted. For now, it is apparent that whatever the so-called silent majority might think, it cannot protect the SCAF from a determined, energised constituency for whom the fate of the revolution is paramount. These politically active groups still retain considerable ability to bring both hundreds of thousands to the streets and Cairo to a standstill.

The key to resolving te present crisis and minimising risks of a repeat is to quickly transfer power from the military to credible civilian authorities, namely an interim government acceptable to the political parties and protest movement that would assume the SCAF’s executive and legislative powers and exercise genuine control over the security services. The new government should have the ability to review the transition’s timetable and process. These powers should be conferred through a SCAF-issued constitutional declaration. In turn, this interim government would give way to one born out of the parliamentary elections, the first round of which is scheduled for 28 November, with final results expected only by late March.

There are valid arguments as to why elections cannot be held that early given ongoing violence and instability. But a postponement – at least without a consensus among political parties – could prove far more costly. It would further fuel concern about the SCAF’s intentions, further split the opposition, and antagonise the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, which almost certainly would see this as an attempt to rob it of its expected strong showing. As for presidential elections, they should be moved up and held as soon as feasible.

The SCAF has sent some encouraging signals. After some hesitation, it has indicated the current crisis must be addressed politically and inclusively, rather than escalating the confrontation, hunkering down, exclusively blaming foreign agitators or making token concessions. In talks with some political parties, it agreed to carry out parliamentary elections on schedule, hold presidential elections by 30 June, dismiss the current government and appoint a “national salvation” cabinet. It needs to do more. Not only must it live up to these commitments but it also must move quickly and agree that the new cabinet enjoys the powers described above.  

Other measures are essential to restore trust. Ending the violence, reining in security forces, holding them accountable and allowing peaceful protests is a good place to begin. At this writing, attacks by security forces against protesters have yet to end, even after the SCAF’s meeting with political parties and even after Prime Minister Essam Sharaf ordered those forces to halt their assault.  

Political groups also have a responsibility: to seek as wide a consensus as possible on a political vision for the transfer of power to civilian rule as well as for the new government’s mandate.

If there is one lesson to be learned from the SCAF’s ad hoc, vacillating reactions to protests over the past several months, it is that fragmentary responses to popular discontent are not the way to go. They seldom satisfy the demonstrators. They embolden the opposition. And they are almost always but the first step before more thorough concessions for which the SCAF, far from being given credit, is blamed for having dragged its feet.

Egypt’s transition is bound to be rocky, given the legacy of decades of authoritarian rule, resistance by elements of the ancien régime, The military’s fears of losing its prerogatives and the political parties’ alarm that it will hold on to them, as well as the nation’s oversized social and economic challenges. But getting this step right at this juncture could put the transition on a more stable, confident and legitimate path.