By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: In a statement read on state TV Sunday afternoon, Field Marshal Tantawi said that doubting the transparency of the upcoming presidential election and the constitutional referendum is “slander” and has nothing to do with reality.
“We were careful not to be provoked, but what happened recently is enough,” he said, referring to a statement released Saturday by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) criticizing the government’s performance and questioning why the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is backing it despite its utter “failure.”
Repeated demands to sack the cabinet have been refused by Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury who is supported by SCAF, said the statement, adding that this “raises obvious questions over the secret behind clinging so tenaciously to losers and failures.
“Is it a desire to abort the revolution and destroy the people’s belief in their ability to achieve their goals? Or is there an intention to defraud or influence the forthcoming presidential election?” the MB statement said.
The MB’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which holds over 45 percent of the seats in parliament, had on several occasions threatened to take a no-confidence vote to sack the cabinet, despite resistance from SCAF which argues that legal provisions don’t give parliament the authority to do so.
It seemed that the FJP was backing off on the idea until it reiterated its plan in a statement released last week.
According to Mazen Hassan, professor of electoral systems at Cairo University, the constitutional declaration, an interim constitution instated by SCAF on March 2011 which governs the country now, does not include any articles pertaining to dissolving parliament or to SCAF having the power to do so.
“This is a power struggle that has manifested itself in the form of a disagreement over the current government. Deep down it is much more than this as each party wants to protect its interests and the power balance after the presidential elections,” said Hassan.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is finding this a golden opportunity, as it will be the first parliamentary majority in the history of Egypt that carries a no-confidence vote against the government, plus it will be acting on the desire of the people as no one is a fan of the current government,” he explained.
On the other hand, for SCAF if the no-confidence vote is passed and they have to form a new government, they will not be able to ignore the balance of power and will have to appoint ministers from the FJP and Al-Nour parties, which means less freedom in the distribution of power for them, Hassan said.
“The result is the current struggle. But both parties are pragmatic and have always reached an arrangement in the past. Both want to protect their interests during the power transition.”
The MB statement questioned the independence of the judiciary, referring to what the MB alleges are “threats” by SCAF to challenge the constitutionality of parliament in the Supreme Constitutional Court.
“Is the Constitutional Court under the authority of the executive branch? Is the law or the constitution what really govern the relationship between state authorities? Or is it threats and manipulation of the constitution?”
In response, Tantawi criticized what he termed “talk of threats to have the Constitutional Court invalidate the [parliamentary] elections.”
He said that suggesting that the court submits to the executive authority is “unacceptable and aims at achieving partisan interests at the expense of the sanctity of the judiciary.
“We are aware that the government’s performance does not satisfy the people in this critical period but we assure you that the welfare of the country is our priority and we make decisions that have the country’s and citizens’ best interest in mind,” he said.
“We call on all Egyptians, political powers and our free media to come together to achieve democracy and work together to ensure that the new constitution is representative of the people,” Tantawi said.
In their statement, the MB said that retaining the current government as we approach presidential elections and a referendum on the constitution “raises doubt about the fairness and integrity of both.”
Legal expert and leading member of the liberal Al-Wafd Party, Essam Sheha, said that this statement is the MB’s way of “embarrassing” SCAF.
“When SCAF realized that Brotherhood wants to exclusively draft the constitution, they put out a rumor regarding challenging the parliamentary elections at the Supreme Constitutional Court. This statement is the MB’s reaction to the lack of response from SCAF regarding the no-confidence vote,” he said.
Commenting on the MB’s statement, the April 6 Youth Movement said that they read the statement with “surprise and regret.”
“The statement carries the demands of the revolutionaries which the parliamentary majority [FJP] has ignored and abandoned,” the group said in a statement.
Many activists said they feel the same way.
When cabinet ministers were absent from the People’s Assembly session last Wednesday, Speaker Saad El-Katatny froze the session in protest.
“I’m telling the government and the Egyptian people that the [PA] you voted for is capable of withdrawing confidence from the government and determining the responsibilities of the prime minister.”
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga was quoted by state-run Al-Ahram as saying that the military council had already ruled out the possibility of a no-confidence vote. The military-issued constitutional declaration does not give such powers to parliament, she said.
According to the PA bylaws, one of its authorities is to issue a vote of no confidence against the government if it sees fit. Article 62 of the constitutional declaration approves all previous bylaws and laws, according to the MB statement.