A wave of violence crime and armed robbery swamped Egypt throughout the last two weeks, and culminated in the tragic violence in Port Said where some 75 lost their lives in a
A wave of violence crime and armed robbery swamped Egypt throughout the last two weeks, and culminated in the tragic violence in Port Said where some 75 lost their lives in a football game. Egyptian revolutionaries have been demonstrating in Tahrir, Maspero, and other spots all over the country protesting that the revolution remains unfinished, and calling for a swift handover of power from the military to a civilian authority
Major among the demands of the second wave of the January revolution last week has been that the ruling Military Council should hand over power to a civilian authority. The question which begs an answer, however, and which is being strongly posed by the Egyptian man-of-the-street is: What is the urgency of a direct handover of power now instead of next June as the military have repeatedly promised?
Who takes over power?
The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafis, who have won an overwhelming majority in the newly-elected parliament, approve the handover over power in five months time; their leaders have announced that the 25 January 2011 Revolution would then have achieved all its goals.
Not so, says the revolutionaries in Egypt’s squares. They insist they opted on 25 January 2011 for a civil State; what they’re getting now is an Islamic State. They insist that the Military Council is backing the Islamists, and the Islamist-majority parliament would see to it that, during the coming five months, Egypt gets an Islamic constitution and an Islamic president. They thus demand an immediate handover of power to civilians. Which poses the next vital question: If there will not be an elected president, to whom will the military hand over power?
Among the options offered on the political scene is that the militry hand over power to the Speaker of the Parliament who, according to Egypt’s previous Constitution, was assigned as acting president in case the president is no longer in office, and until a new president is elected. In case there is no Parliament, the previous constitution stipulated that the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court should act as president.
“We opted for civil”
MP Saad al-Husseini, member of the executive office of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, declared that handing over power to the Speaker of the Parliament Saad al-Katatni, who is a MB/FJP member, is not “adequate”. Essam al-Erian, a prominent MB member, said the FJP insisted that a peaceful handover of power by the military should be achieved, as scheduled, next June. So far, Mr Erian said, legislative power has been handed over to an elected parliament, meaning that fears of the military reneging on their promise are groundless.
The liberals, for their part, absolutely reject any handover of power to the Speaker of the Parliament. MP Ziyad al-Alami, who is also member of the Revolution Youth Coalition, says that handing power over to the Speaker of the Parliament means effectively handing it over to the Islamists. “That’s not what the revolution demanded in the first place,” he said. “We demanded a civil State.” Mr Alami proposed that Parliament should choose an independent to act as transitory president for some two months till presidential elections may be held.
Early presidential elections would solve the problem, according to liberal MP Emad Gad, who also refuses a handover of power to the Speaker of the Parlaiment.
As presidential contender Buthaina Kamel sees it, the controversy over the power handover issue is a healthy one and illustrates just how far democracy has come in Egypt. Ms Kamel proposes that the military may hand over power to revolution command council formed of the various revolutionary coalitions.
According to legal and constitutional experts, the proposal to hand over power to the Speaker of the Parlaiment or to the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court embroils Egypt in a constitutional dilemma, since the constitution that stipulated both these possibilities is no longer valid.
“Such proposals have no legal or constitutional backing and may easily be contested,” says legal expert Shawqy al-Sayed. As to the proposal to hold early presidential elections, Dr Shawqy points out, it would throw us into the pitfall of there being no constitution to back the operation. “Best to stick to the original plan,” he says, “that of parliamentary elections followed by drafting a constituion, then presidential elections.”
Until that happens, according to Mr Shawqy, the most pragmatic plan would be the appointment of a presidential council to take over power from the military. The question here, however, is how would its members be selected, and who would appoint them. Would this again give rise to an irreconciliable political divide?
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