SCAF ups powers
BY AMIRA SALAH-AHMED AND DALIA RABIE
Cairo: Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) issued a constitutional declaration late Sunday, broadening its powers just hours before the preliminary results of the presidential election, and three days after dissolving parliament.
The document complements the one issued on March 30, 2011 — after the January uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak and installed SCAF as Egypt’s de facto ruler. The 63-article March decree was based on an earlier public referendum on 10 constitutional amendments. A majority of Egyptians voted yes in the referendum and had their voice reflected in part of the decree announced 10 days later.
The recent amendments will not be subject to a referendum, however, and are widely viewed as rendering the incoming president irrelevant by giving the army generals running the country far-reaching executive and legislative powers.
SCAF has billed it as a document merely intended to fill legislative hole since the parliamentary elections were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court last Thursday. SCAF later dissolved parliament based on the verdict.
In more twists and turns, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party briefly enjoyed a parliamentary majority, dubs the constitutional declaration itself “unconstitutional.” The FJP also demanded that the dissolution of parliament be challenged via a public referendum.
This comes at the end of a two-day runoff that pitted Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafik against the MB candidate Mohamed Morsi, which saw a markedly lower turnout than round one of the presidential race, and far less than the parliamentary elections.
Amongst voters, the sense of election fatigue and despondence is palpable, with many choosing to boycott or spoil their ballots instead of choosing between the lesser of two evils. It’s fair to say that most votes were not for one candidate, but against the other, with the boycotters/nullifiers objecting to what they see as continuing military rule regardless of the outcome.
Just as the vote counting began, the constitutional declaration — signed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi — dampened whatever faith was left in the independent authority of the incoming president.
The Supplementary Constitutional Declaration
Article 30: President is to be sworn in before the Supreme Constitutional Court if parliament is dissolved.
Article 53: The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in its current form, has the authority to decide on all affairs related to the Armed Forces, appointing its leaders and extending their terms in office. Until a new constitution is approved, its head [Tantawi] has all the authorities stipulated by laws and bylaws granted to the head of the Armed Forces, the minister of defense.
Article 53: The president can only declare war after SCAF’s approval.
Article 53: In case of turmoil in the country, the president can resort to the armed forces to maintain order and protect state facilities, after SCAF’s approval.
The law outlines SCAF authorities and duties, and incidents where it can use force, arrests, detentions as well as its legal jurisdiction and cases of no responsibility.
Article 56: SCAF will resume the responsibilities stipulated in Clause 1 of Article 56 in the March 2011 constitutional declaration until a new parliament is elected. [This article gives SCAF the right to assume legislative authority until a new parliament is elected. Previously, SCAF had the power to overrule legislation]
Article 60: If the constituent assembly cannot carry out its work, SCAF will form a new representative assembly within a week, to draft a new constitution within three months of its formation. The constitution will be put up for a referendum within 15 days of its completion and legislative elections will take place a month after its approval.
Article 60: If the president, the head of SCAF, prime minister, the Supreme Council of Judicial Institutions, or one fifth of the constituent assembly find that any of the constitutional clauses conflict with the revolution’s goals or the common principles of Egypt’s past constitutions, they have the mandate to ask the assembly to amend the said clause within 15 days.
If the assembly insists, the matter can be brought to the Supreme Constitutional Court for a final ruling within up to seven days. The referendum will be delayed until the constitution is ready in its final form.
Articles 38 will be changed to the following: The law regulates the right to contest the People’s Assembly and Shoura Council according to any election system it determines. –The Egypt Monocle