Egypt ready for another fight against army rule

Cairo, Jun 19: In what is certian to add to the soaring resentment against Army rule, Egypt's military today revived a powerful emergency council that is dominated by men in uniform, even as Egyptians geared up for a fresh round of protests against military's expanding control.

The 16-member National Defence Council, that is convened only in times of emergency and when the country is under threat, has not been in session since former President Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

Closely after issuing a constitutional document that gives sweeping powers to the military and is being seen as an instrument of 'power grab', the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) announced today that the NDC is being revived.

The council, that is to be headed by the President, has 11 military men on it and only five civilian leaders including parliamentary speakers, the foreign minister, and the finance minister.

The announcement comes at a time when the country's leading political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, has charged the military of orchestrating a soft coup, following a court ruling that dissolved the recently-elected parliament.

With concerns mounting over possible public unrest, the US urged Egypt's military to move swiftly on plans to transfer full power to an elected civilian government and suggested failure to do so would prompt a review of US ties, which includes billions of dollars in military and civilian aid.

The Brotherhood, meanwhile, called the people to return to the streets to protest against what it calls a "coup" by the ruling generals.

Independent daily Al-Shorouk said 10 of the members of the National Defense Council would be SCAF members, and a complementary constitutional declaration stipulates that they will continue in their positions without change until the new constitution is drafted.

With the military minimising the president's authority and usurping legislative powers in the absence of the parliament, a major confrontation seems to be brewing between the ruling Army and pro-democracy activists, who led last year's landmark uprising against the autocratic rule of Mubarak.

Many feel the gains of the public revolution have been nullified by the military takeover.

Even as they voted to elect their first-ever democratic president, Egyptians were disenchanted with the state of affairs. Analysts see the SCAF tightening its grip on power as a coup against the January 25 Revolution.

"These (constitution amendments) are the continuation of a series of moves, taken by the SCAF on its way to a military coup, using both the law and judicial bodies," Khaled Fahmy, chair of the history department in the American University in Cairo (AUC) was quoted as saying by Al Ahram.

According to the March 2011 constitutional declaration, the president will head the National Defense Council which specialises in methods of defending the country and its safety.

The winner of the presidential run-off, who will be the Egypt's first democratically elected president, will officially be announced on June 21, though Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has already claimed victory for its candidate Mohammed Mursi.

"The council meeting will be void unless an absolute majority of the members attend," the military council stated.

It said the decisions of the council would be according to "the absolute majority of its attending members".

The statement went on to say that the council has the right to "call to the session whoever it might find useful based on his information or experience, including deputy ministers or others," but such individuals would not be allowed to vote during the council meetings.

The new president will now be sworn in by the Supreme Constitutional Court instead of the lower house of the parliament.


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