It’s been my contention since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February that (1) this was a military coup d’état against the prospect of Mubarak’s son taking power and (2) the military brass intend to hold on to power. On the latter point, I wrote in April: “The soldiers have become far too accustomed to power and the good life to give up these perks. They will do whatever it takes, be it purging Mubarak, throwing his sons in jail, banning his old political party, changing the constitution, or repressing dissent, to keep power.”
An important article in the New York Times yesterday, “Egypt Military Moves to Cement a Muscular Role in Government” by David D. Kirkpatrick, explains just how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces plans to keep its power — by pre-empting the constitution:
The military announced Tuesday that it planned to adopt a “declaration of basic principles” to govern the drafting of a constitution. … it will spell out the armed forces’ role in the civilian government, potentially shielding the defense budget from public or parliamentary scrutiny and protecting the military’s vast economic interests. Proposals under consideration would give the military a broad mandate to intercede in Egyptian politics to protect national unity or the secular character of the state. … Though the proposed declaration might protect liberals from an Islamist-dominated constitution, it could also limit democracy by shielding the military from full civilian control.
For those of us worried about a potential Islamist domination, this is good news: “The announcement of the declaration is a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group considered Egypt’s best-organized and most formidable political force. It was poised to win a major role in the new Parliament, and thus in the writing of the new constitution.” But for the liberals, it’s bad news:
Demonstrators have returned to Tahrir Square with increasing frequency to voice their demands, culminating in a weeklong sit-in rivaling the days of the revolution. … The protests are increasingly taking aim at the military. On Thursday, a coalition of 24 political groups and five presidential contenders endorsed a call by the young leaders of the protests for the military to cede more power to a civilian government now rather than wait for elections. The military leaders are sounding increasingly exasperated.
In other words, it’s business as usual. All that huffing and puffing about a “New Egypt, New Era” really does not amount to much. That said, I continue to be impressed by the Tahrir spirit and hope it will someday reach the corridors of power.