by Ahmed E. Souaiaia
After a long wait, Morsi was declared the winner of the
presidential contest in Egypt edging out the last prime minister under Mubarak's
rule. The official results of the elections was preceded by events that reminded
us that nothing is certain in post-revolution Egypt. Nonetheless, having a
president 15 months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak will bring some political
stability and predictability for the country. But the questions concerning the
parliament, the new constitution, and the role of the military in politics will
The next few days will be a dazzling display of high stakes
game of brinkmanship between the Egyptian military and Brotherhood. The Supreme
Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) military announced before the announcement of
the elections results that it will hold a ceremony by month's end to hand over
powers to the elected president. It will be more accurate to say that the
military will be handing over some power, not all powers given its actions in
the past 24 hours. In fact, before Egyptians finished voting on the second day
the presidential contest, the military gave itself more constitutional powers
1. Power to legislate until a new parliament is elected.
2. Power to lead and finance the military (the new president
will not be the head of the armed forces).
3. Power to declare war.
4. Power to veto articles of the new constitution.
5. Power to appoint members of the constitutional assembly.
6. Power to intervene in civil matters (crushing protests
7. Power to preserve and enforce rulings of the current
Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC).
These new powers stemmed from the recent SCC ruling that
voided the exclusion law and nullified 1/3 of the seats in the parliament.
While the first part of the ruling allowed a member of Mubarak's regime, Ahmed
Shafiq, to compete in the presidential elections, the second part was
interpreted by the military (and the head of the SCC) to mean the dissolution
of the entire parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood's party, the winner of more
than 40% of the seats, is challenging that interpretation and they may have a
legal basis to do so.
First, the temporary constitution on the basis of which the
presidential and legislative elections were held did not specify who has the
power to dissolve the parliament. It is generally odd that a non-elected body
could strip an elected body of its authority. Even Article 3 of SCAF's
constitution states supports the supremacy of institutions with popular
mandate. Furthermore, if a president is sworn in in the next couple of weeks,
his authority should override that of SCAF's, again on the basis of Article 3
of the provisional constitution. Therefore, conceivably, the president, then
could void the addendum SCAF introduced on Sunday.
Second, given that it was SCAF that authorized the rules for
the legislative elections, SCAF alone should suffer the negative ramifications
of the bad laws they created not the voting public. Furthermore, even if the
SCC ruling were to be upheld, it only invalidates one-third of the seats and
there is no explicit text in the provisional constitution that stipulates the
dissolution of the parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood could challenge the
dissolution of the parliament on this ground and insist on convening the
parliament short of the holders of the disputed seats and deal with the problem
in whatever manner is deems fit. If this were to happen, SCAF's addendums again
will be challenged by force of the standing legislature.
In all cases however, the coming days will determine the
fate of democratic change in Egypt and the promise of the Arab Spring altogether.
Prof. SOUAIAIA teaches at the University of Iowa holding joint appointments in International Studies, Religious Studies, and College of Law. He is the author of a number of articles and books. More information @ www.ahmedsouaiaia.com