Politics & Policy

Moving Forward in Egypt

The Supreme Military Council now governing Egypt has convened a panel of jurists to swiftly revise the Egyptian constitution in the next two weeks, and expects to hand the country back to civilian control within six months. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood are being included in the constitutional revision efforts. The Times has the story:


Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council, told the panel that he hoped to yield control to civilian rulers in six months or less, according to Sobhi Saleh, the former Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker. The Muslim Brotherhood, banned by former President Hosni Mubarak, also issued a statement on Tuesday declaring its intention to again become an official political party “when the time is right.”

The constitutional panel will be trying to fix a document that concentrated power in the hands of Mr. Mubarak and his allies, by removing or amending clauses including one that severely restricted who could run for president. The panel of eight people is headed by a former judge, Tareq el-Bishri, and includes a Coptic Christian judge and three experts in constitutional law.

“The committee is technical and very balanced,” Mr. Saleh said. “It has no political color, except me, since I was a member of Parliament. Tantawi told us try and finish as fast as we can.”

Some analysts voiced concern that the military’s schedule was too brisk. “Constitutional amendments in 10 days?” said Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation in New York.

“We’re talking about the architecture of the nation. That’s just crazy,” he said.

Some in the opposition welcomed the brisk schedule as evidence that the officers were eager to turn over power to a civilian authority. But others, noting that the military had so far excluded civilians from the transitional government, questioned whether the schedule might signal just the opposite. They worried that the military might be trying to manipulate events to preserve its power by rushing the process and denying political parties and candidates enough time to organize for a meaningful, fair election that could elect a strong civilian government.

Two generals on the governing Supreme Military Council presented the plan — which calls for writing the amendments in 10 days and holding the referendum within two months — in a meeting on Sunday night with the revolution’s young leaders.

The meeting appeared to be the military’s first significant effort to reach out to the civilian opponents of Mr. Mubarak, and two of the young protest organizers, true to their movement’s Internet roots, promptly summarized the meeting in a post on Facebook.

“The first time an Egyptian official sat down to listen more than speak,” they wrote of their meeting with the generals, Mahmoud Hijazi and Abdel Fattah. The two young leaders, Wael Ghonim and Amr Salama, also praised the generals’ attentive demeanor and the absence of the usual “parental tone (you do not know what is good for you, son).”

Still, the two reserved judgment about the military’s plan, and others in the group said their coalition had yet to make a final assessment of it.


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