THE Egyptian military’s decision to arm itself with sweeping powers as the Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory in the presidential election must shock all those who wanted democracy to flourish in Egypt. Official results of the second phase of the presidential election will be announced today, but Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi has claimed victory. While the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces reiterated its resolve to hand over power to the new president, the decree it has issued creates new hurdles in the way of the transfer of power. With the newly elected parliament already dissolved, the new president will be a lame-duck chief executive, unable to implement his legislative programme. Scaf has also declared that elections to a new parliament cannot be held till a new constitution is made; the new president will not be the supreme commander of the armed forces and that it is Scaf that will make the budget.
The Scaf decree makes it clear that the military junta, headed by Field Marshal Mohammad Hussain Tantawi, has no intention of parting with power. Mr Morsi’s ceremonial induction as president may after all take place, but it will be a ceremony and no more. All presidential candidates, with the exception of Ahmed Shafiq, the Mubarak lobby’s man, have denounced the Scaf manoeuvre, calling it a coup. But that is unlikely to disturb a military that has enjoyed absolute power in Egypt since 1952. While the Egyptian people’s revolt did make Hosni Mubarak go after 18 days of street protests, we in Pakistan know from our experience how difficult it is to dislodge the military from power once it has an inebriating taste of it. The Scaf move deserves to be condemned, for it has betrayed the revolution. What the Egyptian generals should know is that once the genie of revolution is out of the bottle it cannot be put back in. The dissolution of the assembly by the court and the assumption of sweeping powers by the military would add to the ongoing confrontation between the people and the Mubarak loyalists and lead perhaps to a bloodier revolution.