Maj. Gen. Mukhtar al-Mulla, a member of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who had recently been a very active spokesman for the council, created a new crisis in Egypt Thursday. An interview he gave to eight foreign reporters led the Muslim Brotherhood‘s representatives, who were supposed to appear in a meeting to determine, among other things, the members of the committee drafting the Egyptian constitution.
The Muslim Brotherhood was angered by al-Mulla’s statement that “the parliament chosen will not represent all segments of the Egyptian people while the constitution itself will determine the law for all Egyptians,“ and because of this the parliament will not be drafting the constitution by itself. If the reporters “didn’t understand“ what the general had said properly or his words were “taken out of context,“ this will probably be brought to light later, but one thing is certain: the Egyptian military doesn’t intend to give up its supervisory role – even if not direct – in the drafting of the constitution, which will take effect after the elections are concluded, nor its independence from civilian review.
These principles, published by Egypt‘s deputy prime minister a few weeks ago, have already stirred massive protests in Tahrir Square and in other towns across Egypt, organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in the death of approximately 35 civilians in the hands of Egyptian security forces. As a result of this round of protest the government of Prime Minister Dr. Issam Sharif and the accession of Kamal al-Ganzuri in his stead.
The Military Council is currently busy containing the results of the first election round, in which the Muslim Brotherhood had been the big winner, and establish a new body to ensure the new constitution not be exclusively drafted by the parliament which will be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Next week, the second round of voting will begin, in which 18 million voters will go to the polls, followed by a third and final round next month, for which the secular parties are attempting to pull ranks and unite in an attempt to gain a greater portion of the parliament’s seats.
The Egyptian military, which is concerned that Egypt’s secular forces will not succeed in uniting forces and getting a significant hold in parliament, had recently criticized the protest movement for its inability to unite, giving the lead to the Muslim Brotherhood, is establishing an advisory council with members from all Egyptian parties and factions, which will advise the military council on how to run the nation during the interim period until a new president is elected in June. Amongst this new council’s responsibility’s will be to approve the members of the constitution drafting committee.
The Egyptian military is hoping this move will deny the Muslim Brotherhood dominated parliament from choosing the members itself, by creating a representative “filtering mechanism“ that will make it look like the military isn’t directly controlling the drafting of the constitution while still influencing it.
This new mechanism with members, including prominent protest movement activists, intellectuals, party leaders, and other public figures, is naturally raising suspicion with the Muslim Brotherhood that is insisting the parliament be responsible for drafting the constitution. This will be the next political battlefield in which Egypt’s secular and Islamic movements will fight for the identity of the new Egypt. How the Egyptian military will play it out only time will tell.
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