Egypt’s military spells out next 6 months


EgyptianLibertyEgypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces has dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution announcing on Sunday it would remain in charge of the country for six months until a new government is formed. The announcement came on state television with the declaration that a panel would be formed to amend the constitution before submitting the changes to a popular referendum.

Shortly before the military’s announcement, Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt’s prime minister, said the cabinet appointed by Mubarak shortly before he stepped down, would stay in place. He added that this "caretaker government" would remain for the country’s transition towards democracy.

Al Jazeera is reporting that the military are clearly in charge and power rests entirely with the military council. They’ve taken on the role of the presidency and the prime minister and the other ministers carry out their orders. The key point is the military is saying they are only in power for a temporary basis, for six months or they’ll go earlier if elections are called before six months. The paper noted that one thing that wasn’t in that communiqué that protesters have asked for was the repeal of emergency laws.

Dissolving parliament has been a demand of the protesters from the outset. It has been seen all along as corrupt and not representative of the people. The military by stepping in and removing the institution from the equation during this period of transition goes a long way to appease the demonstrators and pave the way to true reform. The Wall Street Journal added, "Egypt’s parliament was dominated by legislators from the National Democratic Party, which was the main vehicle through which Mr. Mubarak ruled the country. The constitution was viewed as a major impediment for opposition parties and free elections."

Nevertheless, the military stopped short of repealing the state of emergency laws which have governed Egypt for the past 30 years. Ahmed Shafiq spoke of a return to stability for the country and the military would probably want to maintain control of the situation so for the moment, relinquishing that level of control seems unlikely. However what the next 6 months holds and what a new government would do is up for speculation. In the interim the question is whether or not the protesters will accept this. As well as the dissolution of parliament, protesters have been somewhat adamant about the repealing of the state of emergency law and the release of political prisoners. With power residing with the military council, just how change will the military support and how much of a risk are they willing to run by opening the floodgates of freedom?

Tahrir Square is returning to normal. Traffic is navigating the area despite protest tents and other encampments which remain. The military is trying to clear the square and a degree of normalcy is coming back.

In a telling sign of this new found freedom coming to the country, there are reports that several thousand police marched on the Interior Ministry to demand better wages. The WSJ said that at the Interior Ministry, the police chanted for better wages: "Four hundred pounds a month, what am I going to do with that?" They didn’t approach the soldiers guarding the Interior Ministry and later dispersed peacefully.

Political Risks

Reuters provides an interesting analysis of the political risks to watch for over the next few months.

First and foremost is the military reneging on its promised handover of power to civilian rule? Considering how the military has ruled the country in one form or another over more than 50 years, this does represent a real threat.

For other countries like the United States and Israel, there is the question of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have stated their goal of making Egypt into an Islamic country. They are definitely a political force in the country despite being outlawed by the Mubarak regime and how they would change the country if they came into power could be worrisome. Already there are rifts in society between the Muslims and the Coptic Christians – remember the church bombing on New Year’s Eve (see New Year church blast sparks Christian fury in Egypt – Jan 1/2011) – and how would the Brotherhood in aiming for an Islamic country as opposed to a more secular country manage to create a more multicultural nation?

The economy has its difficulties. Will post-Mubarak authorities in trying to assuage demands for better living conditions bring about the fiscal deterioration of Egypt? The government announced last week a 15% raise for government employees. The police have marched on the Interior Ministry demanding more pay. Where is all this money going to come from?

How will the new Egypt work with the rest of the world? The military has already announced it will continue to respect its treaties and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief over the peace treaty with Israel remaining in place. Nevertheless, at least one representative of the Muslim Brotherhood made an alarming announcement (see Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Preparing for clash with Israel – Feb 4/2011) that Egypt should prepare for war with Israel. The last thing anybody needs right now is a military conflict. The worry is that if the Muslim Brotherhood becomes a political force in Egypt, if they come into power, will they be able to control their own radical element and those who hate Israel or will they open a can of worms and lead the country in a direction which would ultimately see it involved in a conflict with Israel after 30 years of peace? Yes, Mubarak was bad but he did maintain the peace.

Associated Press – Feb 12/2011

Eighteen Days That Shook the Middle East

Hundreds of thousands danced, wept and prayed in joyful pandemonium Friday after 18 days of peaceful pro-democracy protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power to the military, ending three decades of authoritarian rule. (Feb. 11)

Associated Press – Feb 12/2011

Raw Video: Cairo Calm, but Future Uncertain

Cairo appeared calm on Saturday after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. Some protestors are still lingering in Tahrir Sqaure, divided about whether to stay or go as the country faces an uncertain future. (Feb. 12)

Al Jazeera – Feb 12/2011

Wealthy Egyptians fear change

While millions of Egyptians are welcoming in the post-Mubarak era. Others, particularly the wealthy members of the society, have a lot to lose.

Press TV Global News – Feb 13/2011

News Analysis-Egypt’s 1st Day without Mubarak-02-12-2011

Egypt experiences the 1st day after President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down and the people have come out in mass celebrating their victory. After the Egyptian’s victory in their Revolution the question is: What next and how can a successful people’s revolution turn to a successful government run by the people and for the people?

Note: My apologies to the cartoonist. I can’t read his name to give him credit (anybody out there know him?) but I just had to include his cartoon. I thought it was great. – wb:-)

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

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