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Posted by on Jun 17, 2012 in International, Politics | 0 comments

Egypt’s Turmoil Backdrop Election

The world is bracing themselves for developments not just in Greece but in Egypt. The Christian Science Monitor:

Egyptians went to the polls once more Saturday to finally decide, 16 months after ousting former President Hosni Mubarak, who will take his place: a former Air Force commander associated with Mubarak, or a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The contest between Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, and Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, should have been the final act in the transfer of power from a military junta to a civilian government at the end of the month. Instead, it comes as the transition process has been dramatically upended by a court ruling Thursday that annulled the newly elected parliament, increasing the power of the military and raising the stakes in the presidential race – thus erasing the progress of the past year since protesters flooded into Tahrir Square.

Turnout appeared moderate Saturday as Egyptians made their choice. The Brotherhood, which suffered a deep blow with the dissolution of parliament, has cast Mr. Morsi as the only bastion against the military and the former regime. Meanwhile, Mr. Shafiq, who has promised stability and is not likely to challenge the military’s power, is considered by some the only hope against an Islamist state.

“We are not choosing a certain person. We are choosing a direction for the country,” said one voter as he waited to cast his ballot a Cairo neighborhood.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the group of generals that has ruled Egypt in the interim, will take legislative power from the dissolved parliament, and it is unclear whether the generals will pass it to the newly elected president or keep it until a new legislative body is elected. SCAF has indicated it will issue a decree defining the powers of the incoming president and possibly appointing a new body to write the constitution. That would replace an assembly elected by parliament Tuesday, which some parties had boycotted after complaining that the Muslim Brotherhood’s party was attempting to dominate it.

By waiting until after the election to release the constitutional declaration, the generals are hedging their bets, and can decide how much power to give the president depending on who is elected.

Many voters said they approved the court’s decision to dissolve parliament, because they were unhappy with the performance of the Islamists who held about three-quarters of the seats.

A bit of the extensive coverage by The Guardian:

3.22pm: The turnout level is seen as crucial to the election.

If it significantly lower than the 46% level recorded for in the first round of the presidentially elections, the authorities will struggle to convince Egyptians of the vote’s legitimacy.

Farouk Sultan, head of the presidential election committee, is reported claiming that the turnout is 40%.

But this is not confirmed and early turnout figures can be unreliable.

Turnout in the parliamentary election was initially reported to be 62% but then revised down to 52%.

Turnout in 2005 the last presidential election under Mubarak was just 22.9%.

2.36pm: Egypt’s military rulers are to announce new powers for the new president with the next two days, according to Ahram Online, citing an official.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [Scaf] is due to hand over power to the new president on 1 July, but it will retain legislative powers until a new parliament is elected.

According to the source, the annex will give the new president the power to appoint the prime minister, ministers and their deputies, state representatives at home and abroad, civil servants, military attaches and diplomats.

The new president will also have the authority to call parliamentary elections and joint sessions of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

The president will also be able to grant pardons.

According to the source, the SCAF will not be handing over all its powers to the elected president and will retain the legislative role until a new parliament is elected. It will also preserve the right to approve the general budget.

The Australian:

EGYPTIANS’ anger at their political process appears to have led to a poor turnout over the weekend in the country’s all-important presidential election.

The turnout, to decide between the remaining two candidates, was significantly down on the first round of voting in which 12 candidates competed.

It appeared many Egyptians found the choice between the candidates unpalatable.

Counting was to begin overnight to see whether Mohammed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ahmed Shafik, a loyalist from the Mubarak regime, would be the new president.

The election process reflects a massive power struggle between the two most powerful groups in Egypt, the military, which continues to run the country, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

While they have co-operated to some extent since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the time has come when one of the two will entrench itself. This election is the first chance Egyptians have had to vote for a president since the end of Mubarak’s 30-year dictatorship in February last year.

Many Egyptians were angered by two decisions last week by the country’s Constitutional Court, all of whose judges were appointed by Mubarak. The court ruled that the parliamentary elections late last year were illegal because the result was meant to have delivered one-third of the new parliament as independent candidates.

The Toronto Star’s Haroon Siddiqui:

It’s now clear that Egypt’s old regime — anchored in the armed forces but incorporating the security services, judiciary, civil service and large public sector corporations — is not going to give up power. There’s no longer even a pretense of playing along with the democratic forces.

The elected parliament is gutted and with it the power base of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won the highest number of votes and the largest number of seats barely six months ago.

Don’t be surprised if the Brotherhood candidate loses this weekend’s presidential election as well. And even if Mohammed Mursi wins, he will have little bargaining power with the ruling army junta, especially since the powers of the president remain undefined.

A new constitution was to be drafted by a 100-member parliamentary panel formed just last week. But with parliament gone, the panel may be as well. That leaves the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces free to write the laws or have them written by an appointed panel of its choice.

After 15 tumultuous months of Arab Spring, the army and its partners have outmanoeuvred the popular democratic forces.

There are parallels here with Turkey. There the Deep State — with a similar interlocking network of army, judiciary, civil service, etc. — thwarted democracy for decades until an elected government with a strong mandate clipped its wings recently.

A similar pattern held in Pakistan. There the army either exercised power directly or kept democratic governments at bay, continuing to wield enormous power and enjoying unlimited perks.

Other examples can be cited from Africa and Latin America as well.

Go to the link and read it in its entirety.